Local COVID alert levels and guidance for shielding and supporting clinically extremely vulnerable groups (England)

14 Oct 2020

From 14 October 2020, a three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels will apply. On 13 October 2020, guidance on shielding and supporting clinically extremely vulnerable groups has been updated.

On 12 October 2020, the Prime Minister announced standardisation and simplification of local rules by introducing a three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels in England. Following this, guidance was published on 13 October 2020 by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) on shielding and supporting those who are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. This update is split into two sections to give a brief overview of what is now applicable in England; however, how this affects community pharmacies is explained below.

Please note the following in relation to community pharmacies:

Community pharmacies are able to open regardless of the local COVID alert level and are required to ensure they are operating in a COVID-secure manner, see NPA resources below to help with this:

Further considerations for community pharmacies include:

  • The Community Pharmacy Home Delivery Service During the COVID-19 outbreak service (pandemic delivery service) commissioned by NHS England & NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) earlier on in the year for people who were shielding, has now been terminated, even in the areas of local outbreaks
  • Community pharmacies should now follow their prescription collection/delivery processes as in pre-COVID-19 times for all patients – ensure all SOPs are updated to reflect this
  • The DHSC/PHE guidance on shielding and supporting identified as clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 details how to advise such customers/patients – details can be found in section 2 below
  • The NHS Volunteer Responders Programme continues until at least the end of this year – if a volunteer is recruited by the pharmacy to carry out deliveries after 1 October 2020, they will be required to undergo GPhC approved training; however, if they were recruited before 1 October 2020, they are not required to undergo approved training as long as they have been trained by reading standing operating procedures or something equivalent

Further reading on the above can be found at:

 

1) Local COVID alert levels

From 14 October 2020, the three-tiered system of local COVID alert levels will apply. Please read the full guidance by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on local COVID alert levels; however, the table below details what the alert levels mean from a community pharmacy perspective.

Local COVID alert level What it means
MEDIUM local COVID alert level; full details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-medium
HIGH local COVID alert level; full details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-high
VERY HIGH local COVID alert level; full details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-very-high

 

  • Applicable for areas with high levels of infection; however, tighter restrictions can vary depending on area
  • Further restrictions can apply depending on consultation with local authorities
  • There are a number of minimum requirements; however, it should be noted that travelling needs to be avoided if going outside of the local area, or to another very high alert area, unless for work, or care responsibilities

 

2) Guidance on shielding and protecting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19

DHSC and Public Health England (PHE) have published guidance on shielding and protecting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19

 

Please read the full guidance; however, the table below details on what it means from a community pharmacy perspective.

 

General advice for staff and customers/patients identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (staff and customers/patients) at all local COVID alert levels (this list is not exhaustive)

 

  • If a person travels between areas at different local COVID alert levels, for example, to go to work, then the advice for the area with the higher alert level should be followed
  • Continue with the following:
    • Maintaining strict social distancing by keeping two meters away from people outside of their household or social bubble
    • Washing hands regularly
    • Avoid touching the face
  • If going to pharmacies and shops:
    • Consider doing so at quieter times of the day, and wear a face covering, unless exempt
    • If possible, ask family, friends or volunteers to go out instead
  • If working:
    • It is currently advised to do so from home where possible; if unable to work from home, then they can still go to work; however, it is advisable not to work if the area in which they live/work has formal shielding advice in place and new shielding information has been issued
    • The employer will need to take steps to ensure the risk of COVID-19 exposure is reduced and explain the measures implemented
Extra measures advice for those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable at MEDIUM local COVID alert level (this list is not exhaustive)
  • Go to work (work from home where possible)
  • Limit unnecessary journeys on public transport
  • Observe strict social distancing
Extra measures advice for those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable at HIGH local COVID alert level (this list is not exhaustive)
  • Go to work (work from home where possible
  • Avoid travelling unless essential
Extra measures advice for those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable at VERY HIGH local COVID alert level (this list is not exhaustive)
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Work from home; however, if this is not possible, the go to work
  • Avoid travelling unless essential
  • Reduce trips to pharmacies/shops significantly (use online delivery service or ask others in household/support bubble/volunteers to help
  • Local authority can provide additional support to those who require it

 

Please contact the Pharmacy Services team for further advice and support:

  • Telephone: 01727891800 (Mon-Fri 9am to 6pm, Sat 9am to 1pm)
  • Email: pharmacyservices@npa.co.uk