Staff wellbeing and COVID-19 testing
Staff wellbeing and COVID-19 testing
Maintaining the health and wellbeing of pharmacy team members is a high priority for pharmacy contractors and the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This page contains information on NHS support tools to assist with staff health and wellbeing, and information on how pharmacy team members can access testing for COVID-19.
Testing for COVID-19
Frontline workers, including community pharmacy staff in England, can access free testing for COVID-19, via the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) national testing service.
Testing will allow those currently unable to return to work because they or a member of their family or household have symptoms of coronavirus to know whether they do have the virus.
A new portal for booking COVID-19 tests for key workers, including community pharmacy team members, is now available for use by team members and employers:
This portal replaces the previous temporary system made available for use by pharmacy team members by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Further information about testing
Who is eligible for a test?
- Frontline workers who are self-isolating because they are symptomatic – in this case the frontline worker is the only eligible person in their household to receive a coronavirus test. No other members of their household are eligible; and
- Symptomatic members of the household of a frontline worker, where the frontline worker is self-isolating because of the symptoms of the other member of their household – in this case only the household member(s) of the frontline worker, is eligible to receive a coronavirus test with the frontline worker’s name being noted. The frontline worker will not receive a test as they are not symptomatic.
How can pharmacy staff access a test?
Pharmacy staff who think they or one of their household are eligible for a test can apply for one via:
Pharmacy staff can select a regional test site drive-through appointment or a home test kit.
Home test kit availability will initially be limited, but more will become available over the next few weeks.
How does the testing process work?
The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves (self-administered) or by someone else for them (assisted).
You will get your results by email or text. DHSC are aiming to return results within 48 hours of taking the test.
What can employers do to assist their staff to access a test?
Pharmacy contractors can let staff know they can now request a test via the GOV.UK website.
Employers can also register via the following page, so they can then submit the contact information of employees who would benefit from being tested. Once submitted, the employees will be sent a message providing details on how they can book a test.
Any employer that has any queries on the testing programme should contact DHSC by emailing email@example.com.
More about the national testing programme
Local NHS testing arrangements
In many areas, the NHS has also set up local test centres, which were originally being used primarily for testing of secondary care staff. In addition to the national testing programme, community pharmacy staff may be able to access testing via these centres too. Where a contractor wants to find out whether testing is available via local centres, they should view the information for their region below.
|East Midlands and South Yorkshire|
|London||City & Hackney LPC|
|North East and Cumbria|
|South East Coast|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||West Yorkshire LPC|
NHS Test and Trace
The Government announced that the NHS Test and Trace programme would commence at 9am on 28th March 2020. The announcement was followed by the publication of information on how the programme will operate.
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes. The new guidance means those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.
Guidance for community pharmacies
PSNC has been working with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) to clarify how the Government’s NHS Test and Trace programme applies to community pharmacy to help reduce the need for large numbers of pharmacies needing to close.
PSNC Briefing 022/20: NHS Test and Trace – Key points for contractors as Q&As
This briefing provides further information on the programme, gives advice on patient and staff contacts, and outlines the relevant mitigations that may help to avoid the need for whole pharmacy teams to self-isolate if one member tests positive for COVID-19. It will be updated if and when more information becomes available.
Antibody testing programme
As you may already be aware, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) is in the process of rolling out a COVID-19 antibody testing programme. Antibody testing will be open to NHS staff, including community pharmacy teams, with each NHS region managing its own arrangements. Further information will be made available in due course.
It is, however, important to note that the NHS Test and Trace guidance for healthcare workers states that a positive antibody test result does not exempt someone from the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days if they are a contact of a confirmed case. Antibody testing can only inform about previous exposure and it is currently unknown whether this leads to protection against future COVID-19 infections.
Testing for COVID-19 in pharmacies or selling test kits
Some manufacturers are selling products containing COVID-19 testing kits that allow a swab or other type of sample to be taken at home or in the pharmacy setting, followed by a very rapid result within about 10 minutes.
These tests are different from the postal kits that are being used as part of the national testing programme, whereby the swab is taken by you at home and then returned by post or courier.
The current view of Public Health England (PHE) is that use of products that give a very rapid result is not advised:
- some of these products look for virus while others look for the body’s immune response to the virus. Such tests are very rapid and can work on a range of specimens including serum, plasma or finger-prick whole blood;
- there is little information on the accuracy of these rapid point of care tests, or on how a patient’s antibody response develops or changes during COVID-19 infection. It is not known whether either a positive or negative result is reliable; and
- currently there is no published evidence about the suitability of these rapid point of care tests for diagnosing COVID-19 infection in a community setting.
GPhC advice on COVID-19 rapid antibody tests
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has stated that it does not believe it is appropriate for COVID-19 rapid antibody tests to be sold in community pharmacies at this time.
In a letter sent to community pharmacy contractors and superintendent pharmacists, Chief Executive Duncan Rudkin outlined the GPhC’s concerns about the potential for the selling or recommendation of such antibody tests to undermine the standards and professional responsibilities of pharmacy professionals.
Whilst the UK Government, World Health Organization (WHO) and Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) remain concerned about the use and efficacy of these tests, it is strongly recommended that you ensure your pharmacy does not offer rapid antibody test kits.
Contractors are encouraged to review the updated Q&As on antibody test kits and antibody testing on the GPhC website. There is a clear expectation from GPhC that pharmacies will adhere to published guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and PHE. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians should ensure they are up-to-date with national guidance issued by Government bodies and consider the wider public health impact of supplying or advising any activity that may contribute to false assurances.
Pharmacists and their teams have been spending all of their time through this pandemic serving their patients and their communities. Amidst the pace of the days it is often too easy to forget about your own wellbeing and that of your teams. Please take some time to take care of yourselves and your teams so you can continue to take care of your patients and your communities; we hope the tools below will help you to do so.
NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have organised a range of psychological support for all NHS staff, including those working in primary care, during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The initial offer involves free access to a number of wellbeing apps (Unmind, Headspace, Sleepio and Daylight) from now until the end of December 2020 to support healthcare workers’ mental health and wellbeing. Information on how to access this support is available on the NHS Employers website; an NHSmail email account may be required to access some of the apps. There is also support on the NHS Our People website in the form of access to helplines and apps, as well as access to short 10-20 minute online guides to help develop new skills and help improve your experience at work. They have also introduced a confidential staff support line, operated by the Samaritans, which is free to access from 7.00 am – 11.00 pm, seven days a week.
Looking after you too: coaching support for primary care staff
As part of work to ensure all staff delivering frontline primary care services feel supported to maintain their psychological wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS has launched the #LookingAfterYouToo initiative. This is a free resource – available to all clinical and non-clinical staff working in primary care – offering individual coaching sessions with a highly skilled and experienced coach.
A ‘where to start guide’ for pharmacy staff
The NHS Specialist Pharmacy Service with London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust have developed wellbeing and accessing support during the COVID-19 pandemic – a ‘where to start guide’ for pharmacy staff. This includes resources to encourage all staff to establish good habits with respect to their wellbeing from the outset and provides some immediate ‘go-to’ strategies and information to support ongoing wellbeing during the pandemic.
Pharmacist Support resources
Pharmacist Support is the profession’s independent charity for pharmacists and their families, former pharmacists, trainees and MPharm students.
The charity’s free and confidential support includes a suite of wellbeing resources – delivered through webinars and factsheets – aimed at helping individuals identify the signs and symptoms of stress and equipping them with tools and techniques to help deal with feelings of pressure.
Pharmacist Support has now launched a campaign to help pharmacists and pharmacy students to prioritise their wellbeing. It can be difficult for pharmacy staff to find time to prioritise their own needs so the ACTNow campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing.
The campaign encourages community pharmacy teams to:
Allow time for wellbeing
Consider needs of your colleagues
As part of the campaign, Pharmacist Support has developed a central resource hub, named the Wardley Wellbeing Hub, where you can take ACTion to manage those every day pressures and worries.
PSNC is supporting this campaign and encourages all pharmacy staff to take some time to take care of themselves if they can.