Infection Prevention and Control (including PPE)

Published on: 19th March 2020 | Updated on: 22nd June 2022

This page provides information on infection prevention and control (IPC), including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Page last updated: 6th June 2022


IPC guidance

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has updated its UK IPC guidance with new COVID-19 pathogen-specific advice for health and care professionals. This advice should be read alongside the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual (NIPCM) for England and applies to all NHS settings including primary care.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has published a letter to support NHS service providers including community pharmacy contractors, to interpret the updated Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Read the NHSE&I letter

The key points in the NHSE&I letter for community pharmacy are summarised below (the exact interpretation will depend on your local risk assessments):

For health and care staff, including pharmacy staff

  • Staff should continue to wear facemasks as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for transmission-based precautions when working in COVID-19/respiratory care pathways, and when clinically caring for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients. This is likely to include settings where untriaged patients may present such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on local risk assessment.
  • Staff are in general not required to wear facemasks in non-clinical areas, for example, offices, social settings, unless this is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised by a risk assessment.

Patients

  • Patients with respiratory symptoms who are required to attend for emergency treatment should wear a facemask/covering, if tolerated, or offered one on arrival.
  • All other patients are not required to wear a facemask unless this is a personal preference.

Any IPC measures beyond those contained in the above publications is a matter for local discretion.

Facemasks and face coverings in pharmacies

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has published a letter to support NHS service providers including community pharmacy contractors, to interpret the updated Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which includes information on wearing facemask and face coverings in pharmacies:

Read the NHSE&I letter

For health and care staff, including pharmacy staff

  • Staff should continue to wear facemasks as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for transmission-based precautions when working in COVID-19/respiratory care pathways, and when clinically caring for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients. This is likely to include settings where untriaged patients may present such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on local risk assessment.
  • Staff are in general not required to wear facemasks in non-clinical areas, for example, offices, social settings, unless this is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised by a risk assessment.

Patients

  • Patients with respiratory symptoms who are required to attend for emergency treatment should wear a facemask/covering, if tolerated, or offered one on arrival.
  • All other patients are not required to wear a facemask unless this is a personal preference.

Facemasks

Face masks should be Type l or Type ll masks, but if Type IIR face masks are more readily available, and there are no supply issues for their use, then these can be used as an alternative to Type I or Type II masks.

Pharmacy contractors can continue to order Type IIR face masks and other PPE free of charge from the Government’s PPE portal and there are no current issues with supplies, so Type IIR masks are the preferred type to use.

Mask use should generally be sessional, with one session being for example, a half day period of time, with a new mask being used after a break from work.

Other use of PPE in pharmacies

Disposable plastic aprons (single use) and gloves (single use) should be worn where staff are providing direct care to a patient, where there is a possibility of the patient being infected with COVID-19 and there is (anticipated) exposure to blood/body fluids or non-intact skin. This scenario is unlikely to occur in general community pharmacy practice.

The use of social distancing and hand hygiene for staff, patients and visitors continues to be a key way to further reduce the risk of transmission.

Obtaining supplies of PPE

The Government’s PPE portal can be used by community pharmacies to obtain all the COVID-19 PPE they need; the supplies will be provided free of charge and the service will operate until 31st March 2023 or until infection prevention and control guidance is withdrawn or significantly amended.

Pharmacies can order:

  • Type IIR masks;
  • Aprons;
  • Gloves;
  • Hand sanitiser; and
  • Visors.

PPE portal platform

Community pharmacy contractors  should use the PPE portal platform to order PPE.

Contractors who had used the previous PPE portal platform should have received an email to their pharmacy’s NHSmail shared mailbox email address from ppe-portal@dhsc.gov.uk with the subject line ‘Welcome to the PPE Portal’. This email lists the steps contractors need to take to register and log-in to their account on the current PPE portal platform.

If contractors have not received this email, they are advised to check their spam/junk folders to ensure they have not missed the email. If contractors have not received the email, they are advised to contact the DHSC PPE portal customer services directly on 0800 876 6802. The team is available Monday – Friday, 8am to 5pm.

If contractors have received the email and are yet to register their account, they are advised to do so as soon as possible, as the old PPE portal platform closed on 26th April 2022. From this date, all contractors attempting to log-in to the old PPE portal platform will be automatically re-directed to the above PPE portal platform.

Other IPC measures

The Government has issued general guidance on working safely in retail environments which contractors should review.

PSNC’s risk assessment template can help pharmacy teams to identify further potential changes which could be made to their pharmacy environment or procedures during the pandemic to increase the safety of staff and patients:

Social Distancing and Infection Control Risk Review Template for community pharmacies (v2 15th June 2020) (PDF)

Social Distancing and Infection Control Risk Review Template for community pharmacies (v2 15th June 2020) (Microsoft Word)

The Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group has developed guidance to support pharmacy teams consider how to minimise risk when using consultation rooms:

Safe use of consultation rooms: COVID-19

The National Pharmacy Association, PSNC, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group have jointly issued guidance for pharmacy teams on handling medicines returned for disposal during the pandemic:

Guidance on dealing with patient-returned / unwanted medicines

Checklists on dealing with patient-returned / unwanted medicines

Flowchart summary of the guidance

Government guidance is available on how ventilation in the workplace can help to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The guidance follows an update to the Health and Safety Executive guidance for employers on Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus pandemic.

HSE spot checks and inspection of pharmacies

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) undertakes spot checks and inspections of work environments, including community pharmacies, to ensure workplaces are COVID-secure – doing this by calling, visiting and inspecting relevant premises. The HSE also assists local authorities, which also undertake inspections of retail premises, including community pharmacies.

HSE information states that officers visiting premises will carry identification from their business (HSE works with approved partners) and a letter of authorisation from HSE. Calls may currently come up as an unknown number. If you wish to verify that an officer who calls or visits your organisation is genuine – which pharmacy contractors are particularly encouraged to do if contact is made by telephone – please call 0300 790 6896.

For more information on HSE on spot checks and inspections, see Work Right – HSE campaigns.

Return to the main COVID-19 hub page

 

For more information on this topic please email info@psnc.org.uk

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