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Face coverings not mandatory for patients visiting pharmacies

Although patients are advised to “consider wearing face coverings” in pharmacies, it is not a requirement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said last week (June 1).

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called on the government and NHS England to ensure that new rules making it mandatory for patients and visitors to wear face coverings at hospitals are “extended across primary care and other healthcare settings”.

“The Government must extend the measures announced so far to pharmacy settings and work with the profession on how this will be implemented as part of the new normal,” RPS president Sandra Gidley said earlier in the month (June 8).

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) is “of the view that pharmacy teams as healthcare professionals should be protected and so should all patients who visit the pharmacy”, chief executive Leyla Hannbeck told C+D yesterday (June 16).

The Company Chemists' Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said the organisation believes that it is “currently most appropriate for each individual business to make decisions on matters such as the use of use of face masks by patients and the public.”

“We are continuing to support our members through both the cross-sector community pharmacy patient safety group and the CCA’s professional practice group to understand how they can best support their teams and their patients during these difficult times,” he told C+D last week (June 17).


Do you think it should be mandatory for patients to wear face masks when entering a pharmacy?
Do you think face coverings should be mandatory in pharmacies?

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

This argument is not helped by the pharmacist in my local pharmacy who is wearing a mask but it is not covering their nose!  This is the second time that I have been in there recently so it is not just a one off occurence!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

It's the patients who pull their facemask down when they talk to you that make me chuckle (in a 'wtf' kind of way), especially when, nine times out of ten they are also wearing the most minging gloves known to man.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Dunno if it's the same everywhere, but it's particularly noticeable that today, thursday, is ROASTINGLY hot and hardly anyone is wearing a face mask. I can't say I blame them but it goes to show that mandatory face mask wearing would be difficult to enforce in summer. It would also be open season for shoplifters - facemask on, stick two fingers up to the CCTV and leg it!

Daniel McNulty, Superintendent Pharmacist

It's not the DoH's decision - it's mine, I believe.

Pharmacies are private spaces and, as an employer, I am abided to mind the health of my staff. 500 patients a week, 500 opportunities to infect.

Face coverings are mandatory in my pharmacy for patients, staff, delivery drivers, plumbers, Keith Ridge and members of the government.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Is it wrong of me to want to see Donald Trump try to visit your pharmacy?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Well done but how do you handle the patients? Do you give them a mask at the door and would you be prepared to refuse them entry if they didn't accept? How long are you going to keep it up for if you don't mind my asking?

Daniel McNulty, Superintendent Pharmacist

We ask them. It's a village pharmacy which makes the process much easier.
A lady in the village has made hundreds of masks which the pharmacy has supplied to patients for a nominal fee.
Patients are requested to wear a covering next time they come in if they arrive without one.
I have asked two patients not to return without a covering, both complied.
I'll certainly keep it up for as long as the buses do.

Daniel McNulty, Superintendent Pharmacist

Oh yes. One patient sounded off on [redacted] about it. An explanation of how it protects the staff was added by one of our staff. A relation picked up the meds next time wearing their mask and was thanked for their efforts.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Did you redact the name of the most prominent social media site yourself or was that C and D over officiating? If it was the latter, it comes to something when you can't put the words 'book' and 'Face' (not necessarily in that order and linked together) on a post.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

You sound like you've really thought it through. I guess it helps being in a village  - a town or city centre pharmacy might struggle, but well done for really looking after your staff. Handy you have the lady making the masks too - I was wondering how you afforded it. You might have saved a few outside the pharmacy too through education.

Daniel McNulty, Superintendent Pharmacist

I agree wrt a high street pharmacy. Much more difficult enforce.

Although, each reduction in interaction is a reduction in risk so, as long as you were attempting to encourage face covering, I'm sure those that complied would be a high enough cohort to actively reduce the risk to staff. 

The lack of mandatory support puts the onus on the employer to take 'reasonable' steps and there, perhaps, the arguing would start.

Enforcing behaviours like this is notoriously difficult and, in reality, relies on the hearts/minds and goodwill of the population.

I'll just leave that statement there with no judgement attached...

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm a little jealous of you......

Sounds like you work somewhere nice, with decent people.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm coming to the conclusion that anything we do is merely a sticking plaster to look like we are taking action. Chris Whitty has said that the virus will be circulating for at least another 12 months (I think it'll be basically forever, like most viral diseases, just at a much reduced level as immunity rises) and I don't think the economy (and society in general) can survive another 12 months of this. Lockdown has definitely helped but it can't go on indefitnitely and when you have idiots like the people just up the road from me who had a kid's birthday party with at least seven households mingling for hours (and it kept raining so it wasn't outdoors) lockdown will ultimately fail. All the measures taken are just slowing it a bit but it WILL get us all eventually and while it may be the case that lives have been saved, it's only lives saved FOR NOW. Once the vulnerable get out and about again, they will cop it sooner or later. It's viral so little hope of a cure, the vaccine situation seems to have gone very quiet so I'm assuming the initial hopes have gone and until most of us have had it there can be no herd immunity. Just look at New Zealand - their PM has done a magnificent job getting rid of the virus, but unless the country is permanently isolated, there is a lovely virus-naive population just waiting for a super-spreader to arrive then it's in again. I think that now, we should let it run it's course, some people will die prematurely it's true, which will be individual tragedies for each family, but we all die eventually.  

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

It could be said that I'm a hypocrite for not wearing a mask but saying that others should but the difference is I'd have to wear one for 9 hours straight, while the customer would only have one for the time they are in the pharmacy. They are only in contact with me for a few moments before they go back outside while I am left in an enclosed environment surrounded by the soup of exhaled lung contents of every person who has been in. Therefore I am at immensely greater risk of contracting the virus from the customer than vice-versa and they should wear a mask to protect me and all of the staff. The government should just say 'if you are indoors, anywhere outside your house you should wear a mask' for clarity's sake. That would mean I would have to wear one too but at least the situation would be clear. Lockdown was simple because it was pretty much black and white. Coming out is far more nuanced and the clear guidance we need is now lacking. Relying on the common sense of the public is like relying on a fart in the wind. We work with the public and we know that common sense is very often in short supply.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

So why are they required to use them on public transport? Pharmacies are not open air, risk- free environments with an endless stream of people. A Japanese study is quoting a massive factorial difference between an outside and confined environment with respect to potentially catching the virus.

Chaitanyakumar. Jayantilal. Patel, Community pharmacist

We need to protect our teams as well as the patients that come in our pharmacies. It should be the same message for all NHS services

On Break, Community pharmacist

Lets wait for the U-turn like with the life insurance policy.

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