Facemasks and face coverings

Facemasks and face coverings

June 15, 2020

Since the start of the outbreak, community pharmacy contractors have been taking steps to ensure their pharmacies are COVID-secure for patients, the public and staff, and have been adopting a variety of measures including, as appropriate, the use of facemasks.

There is clear advice for pharmacy staff to wear a Type IIR facemask for patient interactions – see here – but the advice for staff to staff interactions is less clear. The official Public Health England (PHE) advice is for pharmacy staff to follow advice for ‘shops and branches’ and other retail outlets. However, the use of facemasks in pharmacy is complicated by the way in which pharmacy staff routinely move from patient interactions (a patient facing role) on the medicines counter to non-patient interactions, working in the dispensary. In such cases it may be important for sessional use of Type IIR facemasks to be used by these staff.

Last week in a letter to primary care contractors, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) referenced new guidance for the hospital sector and indicated that new primary care guidance would be issued. Until such guidance is issued, community pharmacy contractors are asked to consider whether to follow the guidance issued to hospital staff in non-clinical situations, as well as the advice for visitors to wear face coverings, as follows:

Interaction Circumstances Facemask/face covering
Staff interactions with patients Working in an area with possible or confirmed case(s) and unable to maintain 2 metres social distance should wear a surgical facemask – fluid resistant (Type IIR) surgical facemask – for sessional use. One session could be a half day period of time on the medicines counter.

Sessional use of facemasks (Type IIR) – personal protective equipment (PPE)

(full guidance here)

Staff to staff working (e.g. staff working in the dispensary) In all settings that are unable to be delivered as COVID-secure, all staff (both in clinical and non-clinical roles), when not otherwise required to use personal protective equipment (PPE), should wear a facemask; worn to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer*

*The recommendation is for a Type I or Type II facemask worn to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer. If Type IIR facemasks are more readily available, and there are no local supply issues for their use as personal protective equipment, then these can be used as an alternative to Type I or Type II masks.

(full guidance here)

Patient/public in the pharmacy Patients and the public should be encouraged to wear a form of face covering, to prevent the spread of infection from the wearer.

Face covering

(see PSNC poster here)

Visors also offer protection against COVID-19 infection or transmission.

The use of facemasks is part of an assessment by contractors to ensure pharmacies are COVID-secure for patients, the public and staff, which is important for their safety and as part of a contractor’s health and safety and Terms of Service responsibilities. Other measures include, as appropriate, but are not limited to, handwashing, physical screens, revised working practices, split teams, and any revised lunch and break arrangements; assessments for individual staff members are also important.

Further guidance



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