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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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Nearly all staff at three of the largest community pharmacy multiples have been risk assessed for COVID-19, The Pharmaceutical Journal has been told.
Well Pharmacy said in a statement on 9 September 2020 that it had completed COVID-19 risk assessments for 95% of all 6,700 employees.
Meanwhile, Boots and LloydsPharmacy have risk assessed 87% and 92% of their respective pharmacy-based workforces.
The figures follow guidance from NHS England in April 2020 which advised all NHS employers — including community pharmacies — to “risk assess staff at potentially greater risk” of COVID-19, such as those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Additional NHS England advice in June 2020 said that all employers “needed to make significant progress in deploying risk assessments within the next two weeks and complete them — at least for all staff in at-risk groups — within four weeks”.
However, a survey conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the UK Black Pharmacists Association found that, by August 2020, two-thirds of pharmacists
felt at risk from COVID-19 and a quarter said they had not been offered a risk assessment.
But Well Pharmacy said in its statement that it had sent a risk assessment to each employee in June 2020, which used an “evaluation matrix that would assess the risk to individuals based on the responses to the questions they gave”.
The statement added that, in response to the assessment outcomes, Well arranged “153 full, externally provided, occupational health assessments for those with particular risks”, as well as emailing “reminders about good practice to those who didn’t present a risk”.
Mahendra Patel, a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board who helped develop the risk assessments used, said it was “reassuring to see that Well are being extra vigilant at wanting to help address the issues around BAME communities being disproportionally affected by COVID-19”.
“Equally, it’s a real positive step that Well have taken to apply this risk assessment across all their employees to make sure they don’t exclude anyone at risk,” he said.
Jacqueline Lunardi, people director at Well, said that “more than 95% [of employees] have completed their assessments now”, with plans to “re-assess anyone whose situation changes”.
A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy said in a statement to The Pharmaceutical Journal that it has so far “risk assessed 92% of [its] 16,000 LloydsPharmacy employees for COVID-19 and are encouraging any colleagues that haven’t yet completed the assessment to do so”.
The spokesperson clarified that the 16,000 employees include all those “physically based in our pharmacies”.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Boots said that it has so far “completed 28,922 risk assessments in England, including 6,456 assessments, or 87% of pharmacists, pre-registration pharmacists and pharmacy technicians”.
“An important note to make, though, is that we are continuing to do risk assessments, and these are covering vulnerable colleagues and people who have been on furlough and shielding too,” they added.