Infection Prevention and Control (including PPE)

Infection Prevention and Control (including PPE)

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: 20th January 2022

IPC guidance

The latest the UK-wide infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance is available from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA):

Read the UKHSA IPC guidance

It advices that providers of primary care services, including pharmacy contractors, should ensure that measures are in place so that all settings are, where practicable, COVID-secure, using social distancing, optimal hand hygiene, frequent surface decontamination, ventilation and other measures where appropriate.

Alongside the universal use of face masks for staff and face coverings for all patients/visitors within health and care settings, the IPC guidance:

  • Recommends that physical distancing of at least one metre (increasing whenever feasible to two metres) should be maintained across all health and care settings, including community pharmacies;
  • Contains further information for employers to support maximum workplace risk mitigation against COVID-19 based on the ‘hierarchy of controls’ which include an evaluation of the ventilation in the pharmacy, operational capacity, physical distancing and prevalence of COVID-19; and
  • Recommends staff testing for COVID-19 should continue.

Facemasks and face coverings in pharmacies

From 30th November 2021, the wearing of face coverings in shops, including community pharmacies, became mandatory in England. This requirement will cease from Thursday 27th January 2022, but the UKHSA’s infection prevention control (IPC) guidance remains in place for all staff and patients, in GP practices, dental practices, optometry practices and community pharmacies to ensure that everyone is protected. This includes the wearing of face coverings or masks in healthcare environments.

Resources supporting the IPC guidance, including social media assets and posters to use at entrances to notify visitors that they need to wear a face covering, are available to download from the Campaign Resource Centre:

Face covering posters

The UKHSA IPC guidance recommends pharmacy staff wear a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It says 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

Beyond the use of Type IIR face masks (described above), the IPC guidance provides advice on the appropriate use of other PPE, such as disposable gloves and aprons.

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

The current weekly order limits for pharmacies are listed on the GOV.UK website; the more staff a pharmacy has, the larger the quantity of PPE that can be ordered each week.

Community pharmacies should create an account by visiting the portal and using your NHSmail shared mailbox email address to register.

Visit the portal

Watch a video on how to use the portal

Call the customer service team on 0800 876 6802 if you have any questions about using the PPE portal. The team is available from 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week, to help resolve your queries.

Other IPC measures

All pharmacies have already put in place arrangements to support social distancing and to reduce the risk of spread of infections, but as the progress of the pandemic continues, we will all need to maintain social distancing and COVID-19 related infection control processes. People’s consciousness of the need to maintain social distances at all times may reduce and consequently new or additional measures at each pharmacy may need to be taken to ensure distancing is maintained on an ongoing basis.

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.

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