The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales has asked the Welsh Health Minister for further assurances of support in protecting the pharmacy workforce during the current pandemic.
In a letter to the Minister, RPS Wales thanked the Welsh Government for its continued commitment to pharmacy teams but highlighted that RPS Members remained very concerned about adequate protection to cope with the additional pressures of COVID-19. Further steps have been asked to be taken on a number of issues including guidance on personal protective equipment, infrastructure to support safe social distancing between staff and patients, and access to testing for the entire pharmacy team.
The Minister was thanked for the rapid deployment of personal protective equipment (PPE) to pharmacy teams across Wales but disappointment was expressed on the continued lack of clarity on when PPE should be used. RPS Wales stressed that the recent guidance on social distancing in the workplace did not remove uncertainty for pharmacy teams about when PPE should be worn when 2 metre distances cannot be maintained and called for the forthcoming review of the guidance to address this.
Attention was also drawn to the need for additional physical barriers in pharmacies to protect staff and patients. The Welsh Government was asked to support measures similar to those introduced in England where funds have been made available to offset the costs of infrastructure changes in pharmacy premises.
The Welsh Government was congratulated for putting in place efficient arrangements across Wales for the testing of pharmacists who had symptoms of the coronavirus. Assurances were however sought for testing to be available to the wider pharmacy team including technicians, counter staff and delivery drivers, all of which play critical roles.
Commenting on the letter to the Health Minister, RPS Director for Wales, Elen Jones said:
“We thank the the Health Minister for his continued support for pharmacy teams and we have welcomed all opportunities to work closely with the Welsh Government during the current public health emergency. As circumstances change rapidly, it is important that we continue to listen to our members and outline concerns from the frontline and solutions to the Government.
Protecting pharmacy staff and patients through appropriate use of PPE and physical changes to pharmacy premises is vitally important right now. We also want to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of pharmacy teams is supported. Pharmacy teams, as with all staff working for the NHS, are working under unprecedented pressure. We have therefore called on the Welsh Government for assurances of psychological and wellbeing support to be accessible to all staff now and for a sustained period following the pandemic”.