One of the UK’s biggest multiple pharmacy chains is allowing members of staff testing positive for COVID-19 the “personal choice” to come into work.
In a policy that appears to be different to other pharmacy multiples approached by The Pharmaceutical Journal, Well Pharmacy said that staff testing positive for COVID-19 would not be told to isolate.
The latest NHS guidance states that all healthcare staff with a positive COVID-19 test result should stay at home for five days, and that patient-facing staff can only return to work after two consecutive negative results taken 24 hours apart.
A spokesperson for Well Pharmacy said: “We are not forcing any colleagues who have COVID to work. We are also continuously monitoring our protection measures to ensure they are fit for purpose.”
“We are working to the NHS Infection Prevention and Control guidelines in line with the government’s Living with COVID strategy, and we have ensured we are operating within legal guidelines across each of the UK nations. As such, with isolation now a personal choice, we are taking all steps necessary to continue protecting our customers, patients and colleagues.”
The policy has been criticised by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), which said that several of its members had raised concerns about it. In a statement, it said: “The PDA share the concerns of members that vulnerable patients and vulnerable colleagues who have a reasonable expectation of rigorous infection control procedures in any healthcare setting, could be exposed to the COVID-19 virus by the policy of permitting positive COVID-19 employees to attend work.”
Other pharmacy multiples said this was not their policy, after being approached by The Pharmaceutical Journal. A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy said: “The health and welfare of our colleagues and patients is our utmost priority. Our company absence policy is in line with the latest government requirements to ensure our colleagues protect themselves and their patients from the COVID-19 virus.
“In England, colleagues who work in patient-facing roles are required to test twice a week, and they must isolate for at least five days if they test positive for COVID.”
A Boots spokesperson said: “Boots continues to follow national government COVID-19 guidelines in each of the UK nations, which at present requires patient-facing team members to stay home if they are testing positive for the virus.”
A spokesperson for Rowlands also said they would expect staff to self-isolate. “We continue to have stringent COVID controls in our pharmacies and depots. Our policy remains that any member of staff who is unwell — be that COVID or flu — should self-isolate in accordance with government and NHS advice.”