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The NHS Test and Trace service is causing extra staffing pressures by suggesting that entire community pharmacy teams must self-isolate, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
Gordon Hockey, director of operations and support at the PSNC, said that pharmacy teams would “struggle” to continue providing patient services if NHS Test and Trace continued to fail to consider measures put in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
”As the COVID-19 outbreak continues it is inevitable that community pharmacy contractors will temporarily lose staff members when they are exposed to the virus and need to follow self-isolation rules,” said Hockey.
“However, contractors are increasingly reporting to us that the NHS Test and Trace service is causing additional staffing pressures by suggesting that whole teams must self-isolate.
“Pharmacy teams will struggle to continue to maintain vital services for patients if NHS Test and Trace does not take into account the COVID-safe measures, including the use of PPE [personal protective equipment], that have been put in place to help to prevent transmission between co-workers.”
In its daily update, published on 5 October 2020, the PSNC highlighted advice from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) that healthcare workers pause the NHS Test and Trace app while working in a healthcare building. This, the PSNC clarified, included an NHS community pharmacy.
The advice says that the app should also be paused if working behind a fixed perspex (or equivalent) screen, which is big enough to provide adequate protection.
However, in the same update the PSNC said that is was aware of increasing issues around NHS Test and Trace for community pharmacies, and that it expected NHS Test and Trace decision-making and management of pharmacies to be equivalent to that in the rest of the primary care sector.
“PSNC is aware that in other healthcare establishments the individual circumstances of the case are considered and is seeking parity for community pharmacies,” said Hockey.
The PSNC added that it was working with NHSE&I to address this problem.
Anne-Marie King, chief officer of Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes Local Pharmaceutical Committee said there was “much confusion” around NHS Test and Trace.
“The do’s and don’ts around self-isolation and what to do if a colleague has tested positive or is awaiting a test result, or a colleague who lives with someone who has tested positive … the scenarios are endless,” said King.
“There is much confusion out there … ‘Do I need to come to work?’, ‘Does the whole team isolate?’ etc.; [contractors] all want to do the right thing but the right course of action sometimes isn’t very clear to them,” she added.