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COVID-19 and your pharmacy

Pharmacists are essential in offering NHS guidance for customers concerned about coronavirus, as well as supporting regular customers with their long-term health issues, many of whom will be worried about catching the virus.

The advice is continually evolving and being updated as the situation changes, so keep an eye on reliable forums and websites to keep up-to-date with developments – Twitter feeds can be helpful for this.

Managing staff absences if people need to self-isolate is likely to be an issue, as well as a potentially having an increased workload as worried patients try to stockpile medicines. In some cases, cutting back on other services may be required.

You may wish to consider the following ideas that other pharmacies are trying:

Posters displayed on the entrance door/by prescription drop-off highlighting any of the following:

  • Coronavirus symptoms to be aware of
  • Handwashing advice
  • Whether non-urgent face-to-face consultations are postponed
  • The maximum number of people allowed in the pharmacy (e.g. serving one at a time)
  • Stock updates on items that you do/don’t have – e.g. hand sanitizer, face masks, thermometers, paracetamol
  • Asking people to call back rather than wait, to minimise exposure
  • Advising patients that they may need to wait longer than usual

Prescriptions

  • Coronavirus symptoms to be aware of
  • Handwashing advice

Phone calls

  • With more people being housebound, consider how to manage phone calls, e.g. taking messages about the query and calling back; not putting everyone straight through to the pharmacist; occasionally taking the phone off the hook to get on with workload; or leaving an answer machine message with an email contact instead
  • If there are staff members with health conditions that would prefer not to have face-to-face contact with customers, they could handle the phone calls

Deliveries

  • Managing delivery services and giving advice to drivers about avoiding contact

Media

  • Be aware of stories circulating in the media that may not reflect current NHS/Government advice
  • Helping customers and the team manage any anxiety

Purchasing

  • For key items, consider limiting the amount customers can purchase if you get a delivery of the item

Social distancing and isolation areas

  • If a patient with suspected infection comes into the pharmacy – where is the isolation area? It needs to be a designated space that is preferably somewhere easy to clean the consultation room may not be appropriate
  • Customers should keep a distance of 2 metres from your team
  • Restrict the numbers in the pharmacy at any one time
  • Use of Perspex screens
  • Contactless payments only
  • Considering how to schedule staff hours

Cleaning

Remember, staff should keep washing their hands regularly, and areas of high contact such as door handles and pens should be cleaned more often

The pharmacy may need to temporarily close for thorough cleaning if there has been a suspected case. Be aware of recommended decontamination procedures and have stock of personal protective equipment.

There are lots of resources to help pharmacists and their teams during this difficult time, and being in touch with other pharmacists may help, both to share ideas and for support.
Speak to local GP surgeries so you are aware of the contingency measures in place and how you can best support each other’s services.



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