Community pharmacy staff included in the COVID-19 self-isolation exemption program

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article open access to help healthcare professionals stay informed on an issue of national importance.

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Staff at community pharmacies in England may be allowed to work instead of isolating themselves when identified as close contact with someone with COVID-19, under new government guidelines.

However, staff must have a letter from the government authorizing their individual exemption before returning to work, a government spokesperson said.

On July 19, 2021, the Department of Health and Social Affairs announced that frontline health and care staff, who have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID app. 19, can go to work under certain circumstances.

These circumstances include cases where the absence of the staff member would seriously endanger patient safety.

To qualify for the exemption, staff members must be doubly vaccinated against COVID-19 and have a negative polymerase chain reaction test before returning to work.

They should also perform daily lateral flow tests, with negative results, before starting work each day during the isolation period, and they must self-isolate when not at work.

Government guidelines state that self-isolation waivers “should be made on a case-by-case basis, and only after a risk assessment by the organization’s management.”

“This needs to be cleared by the organization’s local infection prevention and control director, the senior health protection professional or the responsible public health director for the organization,” the government said.

In a statement, the Pharmacy Services Bargaining Committee said it had received confirmation from NHS England that community pharmacy is included in the new policy.

However, when asked about the inclusion of community pharmacy, a UK government spokesperson said Pharmaceutical journal that the new rules are “not a general exemption for a sector or a role”.

“Decisions to inform an employer that designated essential workers are considered to have a reasonable excuse to come to work will be made by the appropriate department responsible for the essential service.

“The employer will receive a letter from this government department informing them and telling them what steps to take,” they said.

The spokesperson added that unless an individual’s employer has a letter from a government department in which they are specifically named, this policy does not apply and they must self-isolate. as indicated.

The guidelines aim to ease the pressure on the NHS and social services.

In a letter sent to community pharmacies, NHS England said the new policy gives “employers the ‘right to allow’ not to ‘force’ staff back to work”.

“Local organizations will need to determine how to record and govern decision making to ensure proper enforcement,” he added.

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Vaccines


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