COVID-19: This week’s updates for community pharmacies (1)

COVID-19: This week’s updates for community pharmacies (1)

August 3, 2020

Latest news, information and guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) for primary care teams.

NHSE&I Primary Care Bulletin updates COVID-19: 31st July round-up for primary care

Staying safe during Eid Al-Adha
Last night marked the beginning of Eid Al-Adha for our Muslim colleagues and we would like to wish you and your loved ones Eid Mubarak. This online video session from the Muslim Council of Britain is tailored for mosque leaders on how best to prepare for Eid safely, covering key lessons learned from congregational prayers across the UK thus far and health and safety advice. Public Health England have also written a blog around staying safe for Eid Al-Adha. Please do share these resources in your communities.

‘Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately…’ Sahih Bukhari, vol. 8, hadith 471

Self-isolation of health and care workers from high risk countries
From today (31 July), registered health and care professionals travelling to the UK from high risk countries will lawfully be required to self-isolate for 14 days. They will no longer be exempt. The move will bring health and care professionals in line with the general public and further protects the NHS and social care system from the spread of coronavirus from overseas, as signs of second waves begin to show in other countries.

The regulations are laid out by the Department for Transport (DfT). The current list of countries exempt from self-isolation measures is available on GOV UK. Health and care professionals returning from a country which has a travel corridor to the UK will not be required to self-isolate on return. Information on air corridors can be found here. This amendment to the regulations will ensure consistency with wider quarantine measures and continue to protect public health.

Updates to shielding guidance
From 1 August, shielding advice to those who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable is being relaxed and the national shielding programme is being paused. The updated guidance will be published on 1 August on GOV.UK and further details will be communicated in next week’s bulletin.

Individuals considered clinically extremely vulnerable will not receive another letter from the government to confirm these changes. The relaxation of shielding measures was communicated to everyone on the Shielded Patient List (SPL) in a letter from the government on 22 June, or more recently via their shielding letter if identified as clinically extremely vulnerable since then.

There may be exceptions to lifting the shielding guidance in parts of the country experiencing community outbreaks. Where specific local measures are in place, the local guidance should be followed. Individuals living in these areas will be informed by the government shielding service.

As per the letter to the NHS on 8 July, the Shielded Patient List will still be maintained while the shielding programme is paused, as the government may advise people to shield again if there is an increase in transmission of coronavirus in the community. It is essential that everyone who needs to access health services is supported to do so as services are restored. Individuals who have been shielding may be particularly anxious about attending health settings

Face covering exemptions
With face coverings now mandatory in many public places, we understand pharmacies have had patients contacting them seeking verification of exemptions from them. There is no requirement for an individual to prove that they have a valid case for exemption if they cannot wear a face covering, therefore, GPs are not expected to provide verification of exemptions.

It is not a legal requirement in health care settings for people to wear a face covering. Government advice says you should wear a face covering in enclosed spaces if you can, including places such as primary care services. However, a patient should not be refused entry to a premises or access to care if they are unable to, or refuse to, wear a covering. This should be clearly communicated to all patients.

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This is a personal choice, and is not necessary in law, verbal communication of this is good enough. Template exemption cards are available for patients to print or download.

GPhC guidance on COVID-19 rapid antibody tests
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) issued a letter to community pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists on 21 July to highlight its position concerning the provision and sale of COVID-19 rapid antibody tests from community pharmacies.

It states that in the light of current public health advice, it is not appropriate for them to be sold in community pharmacies or recommended by pharmacy professionals at this point in time.

Interim Foundation Pharmacist Programme
Health Education England and NHS England and Improvement have written to employers about the new Interim Foundation Pharmacist Programme to help provisionally registered pharmacists transition to full General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registration and beyond.

This new programme forms the first phase of pharmacist education and reform and is designed to build support around the current cohort of pre-registration pharmacists who will become provisionally registered pharmacists in August 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the training of the current cohort of pre-registration pharmacists, who have not had the full experience necessary for registration. The GPhC has decided to provisionally register this cohort, with the final assessment likely to take place later this year, with full registration to follow for those successful in the exam.


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