Infection Prevention and Control (including PPE)
Published on: 19th March 2020 | Updated on: 19th April 2023
This page provides information on infection prevention and control (IPC), including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued COVID-19 pathogen-specific advice on IPC 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 community pharmacies.
NHS England has published a letter to support NHS service providers including community pharmacy contractors, to interpret the UKHSA IPC guidance.
The key points in the NHS England 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 assessments.
- 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 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.
Pharmacy contractors can continue to order Type IIR face masks and other PPE free of charge from the Government’s PPE portal.
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.
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.
The Government’s PPE portal can be used by community pharmacies to obtain the COVID-19 PPE they need; the supplies will be provided free of charge and the service will operate according to demand until the end of March 2024, or when stock runs out.
By the time the scheme closes in March 2024, it is expected that ordering of PPE stock will be significantly reduced and as such any further PPE requests will incur a charge. More information about this will be provided by DHSC in due course.
The Government has issued general guidance on working safely in retail environments which contractors should review.
The Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group has developed guidance to support pharmacy teams consider how to minimise risk when using consultation rooms:
Government guidance is available on how ventilation in the workplace can help to stop the spread of coronavirus.