Community pharmacy employers must carry out Covid-19 risk assessments for all staff in at-risk groups within the next few weeks, NHS England & Improvement has said.
Writing to primary care providers including pharmacies and GPs on June 24, NHSE&I warned employers they have a legal duty to protect the welfare of their staff and that completing risk assessments for those who may be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus “is a vital component of this”.
“All employers need to make significant progress in deploying risk assessments within the next two weeks and complete them – at least for all staff in at-risk groups – within four weeks,” said NHSE&I.
NHSE&I is asking employers to set out clearly to all staff what progress has been made on this requirement, including the number of BAME risk assessments that have been completed and any mitigation measures that have been introduced “in settings where infection rates are highest”.
The letter came in the same week as a survey from the UK Black Pharmacists Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society which found that less than a third of BAME pharmacists and pre-registration trainees have undergone risk assessments.
NHSE&I said: “We recognise the sensitive nature of conversations around individual health and wellbeing. But these conversations must take account of the urgency with which we have to ensure our colleagues’ safety.
“Risk assessments should not be viewed in isolation – satisfactory deployment brings organisation-wide benefits including less absenteeism and sickness, fosters a safety-first culture, and helps ensure trust and engagement with staff.”
RPS director for England Ravi Sharma said: "We are pleased to see NHS England taking swift action following the findings of our survey. Risk assessments are essential to ensure that pharmacists and their teams are safe and protected at work.
“We know the risks of serious complications from COVID-19 - including death - are higher for those from the BAME community. Now is the time for action from employers to build confidence across the profession that this issue is being tackled. "
PSNC director of operations and support Gordon Hockey said the negotiator was in talks with NHSE&I around the “contractual implications of this work for community pharmacy” and hopes a further announcement will be made this week.