Superintendent update: UKHSA has updated its IPC guidance and NHSE&I have provided supporting details
7th July 2022
Earlier this year, the Government announced the living with COVID-19 plan. This led to updates by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) on infection prevention and control for health and care settings and staff. There have been a number of changes including wearing face masks and coverings in such settings including community pharmacies. Here we detail the UKHSA and NHSE&I updates and provide the latest guidance on face masks and coverings, ordering PPE and managing staff testing positive for COVID-19.
- Latest UKHSA and NHSE&I national infection prevention and control updates table
|9 June 2022
· National infection prevention and control manual
- Standard infection control precautions (SICPs) are to be used by all staff, in all NHS settings and where NHS services are delivered, at all times, for all patients whether infection is known to be present or not
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) is listed as part of an ongoing commitment to protect staff and patients against infection risks
- Although the manual does not specifically mention community pharmacy, the glossary defines primary care settings to include community pharmacies
· Next steps on infection prevention and control (IPC) letter
- “Health and care staff should continue to wear facemasks as part of personal protective equipment 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”
- “Health and care staff are in general not required to wear facemasks in nonclinical areas eg offices, social settings, unless this is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised by a risk assessment. This should also be considered in community settings”
|27 May 2022
· COVID-19: information and advice for health and care professionals guidance
- Non-pharmaceutical interventions, for example, wearing face masks and enhanced ventilation, may be used, depending on local prevalence and risk assessment, with the aim to reduce the COVID-19 spread
|4 May 2022
· NHS National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021
o Although the standards are not legislative requirements and not directly applicable to pharmacy contractors, the principles still apply
o A premises standards programme is required as part of the pharmacy contractor’s terms of service – a programme for maintaining cleanliness at the pharmacy which is designed to ensure, in a proportionate manner, that the risk to people at the pharmacy of health care acquired infection is minimised
Pharmacy contractors are also required to ensure pharmacies are in compliance with the NHSE&I approved particulars on premises standards
|1 April 2022
· Managing healthcare staff with symptoms of a respiratory infection or a positive COVID-19 test result guidance
o “Anyone who has symptoms of a respiratory infection and has a high temperature or does not feel well enough to go to work, is advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people” and “should take an LFD test as soon as they feel unwell”
- Face masks and coverings: what does this mean for staff and patients?
Although face masks and coverings are no longer mandated, we would advise you to follow the current guidance, evaluate the need for face coverings in the pharmacy using an appropriate risk assessment and ensure staff continue to adhere to SICPs when working.
Healthcare staff, including those in community pharmacies
- Healthcare staff in all NHS settings should continue to continue to follow the SICPs
- Staff working in COVID-19/respiratory care pathways or when clinically caring for suspected/ confirmed COVID-19 patients, should continue to wear face masks as part of PPE required for transmission-based precautions – this can be interpreted to include patients coming into pharmacies displaying respiratory infections/COVID symptoms
- Those working in non-clinical settings (for example, offices and social settings) are not required to wear face masks unless it is their personal preference or a need raised following a risk assessment
- Patients with respiratory symptoms attending emergency treatment should wear a face mask/ covering, if tolerated
- All other patients are not required to wear a face mask/ covering unless this is a personal preference
- Ordering PPE using the DHSC portal
PPE for use by pharmacy staff can continue to be ordered via the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) PPE online portal free of charge until 31 March 2023. Pharmacies should have received an email invitation to register for the service. If you have any queries or issues, please contact the dedicated DHSC PPE portal customer services team on 0800 876 680, Monday to Friday between 8am to 5pm. DHSC has published full details in their guidance PPE portal: how to order COVID-19 personal protective equipment.
- Managing staff testing positive for COVID-19
Patient-facing pharmacy staff should continue to test twice a week even if they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 using lateral-flow device (LFD) tests and the results are to be reported on the GOV.UK portal. The current UKHSA guidance advises staff that have symptoms of respiratory infection and a high temperature or do not feel well enough to work, to stay home and avoid contact with others whilst taking an LFD test.
- If the staff tests negative, they can work if they do not have a high temperature and are clinically well enough to do so – a risk assessment may need to be undertaken and full details of this can be found in the UKHSA guidance
- If the staff tests positive, regardless whether they have symptoms or not, they are advised not to work for five days and they can only return following two consecutive negative LFD test results taken 24 hours apart – full details of this can be found in the UKHSA guidance
LFD tests for staff use can be ordered free-of-charge via the UK online portal or 911 (if you cannot use the online service). Full details can be found in our Spotlight on symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for healthcare staff.
We are seeking further information on sick pay and self-isolation for staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have a respiratory infection and a high temperature and are unwell to work. We will update you in due course.
- NPA Support
- Further reading:
Please contact the Pharmacy Advice and Support team for further advice and support:
Head of Advice and Support Services
Medication Safety Officer
National Pharmacy Association