Pharmacists fear contracting Covid-19 at work with lack of PPE

Pharmacists have voiced growing concerns about contracting Covid-19 at work due to lack of personal protective equipment and difficulties maintaining social distancing.

Some said vital community dispensaries may be forced to close if the risk of infection became too great.

A survey conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society found that almost over a third were still unable to access continuous supplies of PPE.

Almost 95% said they could not maintain the recommended two-metre distance from colleagues due to the size of their workplace.

Ash Soni, who owns Copes pharmacy in Streatham, south-west London, said he had been forced to pay for PPE supplies personally and questioned why he was not considered "front-line enough" to be given access to sufficient equipment.

I don't need the stuff they're wearing in intensive care units, I'm not dealing with the sickest people that we have, but I should have something that gives me some assurance of protection. For my colleagues, my profession, to feel that we're not just getting warm words but we're actually being valued properly and being given access to the things that we need to make us safe.

Ash Soni, pharmacist

Mr Soni added it was impossible to maintain the correct social distance with colleagues due to the size of the dispensary.

Fingers crossed none of them are unwell, fingers crossed nobody is asymptomatic and carrying the virus, but we don't know for definite. We just have to work on the presumption that everybody is.

Ash Soni, pharmacist

Raj Matharu, a locum pharmacist in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said that local pharmacies needed to remain open as they were in the "unique position" to serve deprived communities.

He added that many dispensaries, including his, had put protective measures in place - including screens and the wearing of masks - but that resources were stretched.

Pharmacist Bipin Patel working at the Broadway Pharmacy in Bexleyheath

We have some masks, we all mask up and we have access to a few gloves - we are having to reuse those gloves at the moment but we make sure every hour everyone is washing their hands.

Raj Matharu, pharmacist