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RPS: Protect pharmacy staff by making patients wear face coverings

Patients are currently being advised to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, such as pharmacies
Patients are currently being advised to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, such as pharmacies

The RPS has asked the government to make it compulsory for patients to wear a face covering in pharmacies, as well as hospitals, to ensure “consistency” across the NHS.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced last week (June 5) that from June 15, all hospital visitors and outpatients must wear a face covering “at all times”. A face mask will be provided to them in an emergency, the DH added.

This measure should be extended “across primary care and other healthcare settings”, including community pharmacy, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said yesterday (June 8).

“It’s vital that there is consistency in the use of face coverings across primary care as well as hospital settings to provide maximum protection from the virus and avoid confusion,” RPS president Sandra Gidley said.

Requiring people to wear a face covering in pharmacy “will help further protect staff and patients”, Ms Gidley said.

“The government will need to explain what type of face covering is useful and how to wear it to best effect,” she added.

Advised to wear PPE

Last month (May 11), the DH advised the public to wear a face covering in “enclosed public spaces”, including pharmacies.

Ask by C+D if it would extend its measure requiring patients to wear a face covering in hospitals to community pharmacies, a DH spokesperson yesterday reiterated that it is “advising the public to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces”, including when “visiting a GP surgery or pharmacist”. 

“GPs are already encouraged to use face masks in waiting room areas and pharmacists should wear face masks when working in an area with possible or confirmed cases and if they are unable to maintain two metres social distance,” they added.

In its announcement about making the wearing of facemasks compulsory in hospitals from June 15, the government said it was also “working with the social care sector to implement a similar approach” but made no mention of primary care.

Amish Patel, managing director of Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield, Kent, told C+D yesterday that he thinks that “everyone should wear a mask if they are going out”.

“It would be pointless to wear it in the pharmacy but then not in a supermarket, for example,” he said.

Janet Maynard, a pharmacist in the north west of England, told C+D today (June 9) that she thinks face coverings are not “that effective”.

“We now have [protective] screens and only allow one person in at a time, so what is the point?” she said.

Do you think patients must wear a face covering in pharmacy?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

How about having screens in pharmacies that do not currently have them along with PPE in pocket-sized dispensaries? Then again, many of them are (or have been) chronically understaffed before and throughout this period.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Debatable as to their effectiveness but I don't want to have to wear a mask all day getting covered in facial sores when the patient can just take theirs off after ten minutes or so.

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