COVID-19 Q&A: for pharmacy owners

We have compiled answers to the questions we are being asked in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Categorised by theme, use the links below to navigate to the relevant section.

Last reviewed 13 November 2020.

Pharmacy inspections

Employing a provisionally-registered pharmacist

Training for temporary support staff

COVID-19: testing

Communicating with patients and public who don't speak English  


Pharmacy inspections

Are you still carrying out any inspections during the coronavirus pandemic?

During the first part of the pandemic, we stopped routine pharmacy inspections. Instead we focused on providing support to registered pharmacies on their arrangements and plans, to help manage pressures and challenges during the pandemic.

Since the beginning of August, our inspectors have been visiting pharmacies that had previously not met all the standards, initially focusing on those pharmacies with published inspection reports where a six month re-inspection was due. Our inspectors are visiting these pharmacies to check whether they are meeting all the standards for registered pharmacies, and the inspector will produce a report for publication.

From the beginning of November, we have suspended routine pharmacy inspections in areas that are in the highest levels of COVID-19 restrictions.

This includes the whole of England during the new national restrictions from 5 November, any areas in Tier 3 in England after the end of the national restrictions, any areas in Level 3 or above in Scotland and the whole of Wales during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown.

We are continuing routine inspections in areas that are not in the highest levels of COVID-19 restrictions.

During this period, we will be continuing with our support calls to pharmacies to discuss their contingency planning.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to act quickly on any information we receive which suggests a risk to patient safety by undertaking intelligence-led inspections.

How can I contact my inspector for advice about coronavirus?

You can send an email to covidqueries@pharmacyregulation.org and your query will be passed onto an inspector or other relevant member of the team.   


Employing a provisionally-registered pharmacist

What requirements do I need to meet if I employ a pharmacist on the provisional register?

We have set out the essential regulatory requirements you must meet in Employing a provisionally-registered pharmacist [PDF 484.34 KB]. The requirements include carrying out a risk assessment before the provisionally-registered pharmacist starts their role.   


Training for temporary support staff

We have temporary support staff helping us in the pharmacy during the pandemic. Is there any training they can do to help them in their roles?

Buttercups training offer several online courses for different pharmacy support staff roles. Find out more in the COVID-19 section of their website. We recommend you also contact your current training provider for advice.   


COVID-19 testing

Supply of tests for COVID-19 from pharmacies

What is the GPhC’s role in relation to COVID-19 testing kits?

As the global pandemic progresses there is an increasing variety of tests being made available to test for current or previous infection with COVID-19.

We set standards that pharmacy professionals and pharmacy owners have to meet at all times, including when offering any type of COVID-19 testing service.

Our overarching aim is the protection of the public, including protecting, promoting and maintaining public health generally, as well as the protection of pharmacy service users specifically.

We do not want to impede public access to safe, effective and responsible testing, or to obstruct responsible innovation in a fast-moving and challenging public health environment.

The role of other regulators and public bodies

Several regulatory and public bodies have leading roles with respect to: the regulation of test kits as medical devices (MHRA); legality of retail sales generally (Trading Standards); regulation of medical services (CQC, HIW, HIS) and authoritative public health guidance from the national public health agencies.

Our approach to COVID-19 testing kits

We do not have the jurisdiction or capability to form our own view on the legality, safety or efficacy of particular types of tests or kits, or the advisability of their use in public health terms.

Our approach therefore is to support the positions taken by the relevant authorities, including the MHRA and the public health bodies, on whether it is appropriate to offer particular types of COVID-19 test at the current time, in light of the evidence available. This includes supporting the position that it is not appropriate for community pharmacy to be selling and recommending rapid COVID-19 antibody test kits at this point in time.

Why can I not offer COVID-19 rapid antibody tests within the pharmacy?

We do not regard it as appropriate for community pharmacy to be selling and recommending rapid COVID-19 antibody test kits at this point in time. This is based on the guidance and evidence available from the key bodies, including the public health bodies and the MHRA.

The UK Government as well as the Scottish and Welsh Governments, alongside the key public health bodies, WHO and SAGE have all intimated that:

  • the use of rapid antibody test kits in the response to COVID-19 has still not yet been established,
  • there is conflicting evidence in relation to the use and efficacy of these tests and
  • the public health consequences potentially outweigh any benefit a patient or member of the public may gain from this type of test.

Our Chief Executive has set out our position in a letter to pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists. [PDF 204.66 KB]

We are aware that this is a fast-changing landscape and there is significant interest across community pharmacy in being able to provide COVID-19 rapid antibody tests to the public.

We are continuing to work closely with other regulators and public health bodies with leading roles in relation to testing to understand their current positions and have been in regular contact with them.

We have recently written again to the public health bodies, including Public Health England, to ask them to confirm their current position in relation to the provision of rapid antibody testing, rapid antigen testing and other forms of COVID-19 testing within settings such as community pharmacies.

We will update this FAQ once we have received responses from the public health bodies.

Can I offer other types of tests, including COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and ‘fit to fly’ tests, within the pharmacy?

We have not taken a position on any other form of COVID-19 test.

This is a complex and rapidly changing landscape and so pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals must take responsibility when deciding whether to offer other types of COVID-19 tests.

You should carefully consider the relevant guidance available from the MHRA and public health bodies, and our regulatory standards and guidance, when deciding whether to offer a particular test within your pharmacy / pharmacies.

You should also carry out a full and thorough risk assessment.

What should I consider when carrying out a risk assessment for a particular type of COVID-19 test?

We would expect you to consider how you will meet our standards and guidance when offering this service. We would also expect you to consider:

  • the wider public health implications of implementing such a service and whether the benefit and value added to patients outweighs the risk
  • the evidence available for the efficacy of the test(s) you plan to offer
  • relevant guidance and advice from the MHRA and public health bodies
  • your premises and whether are they suitable to provide this service and support social distancing
  • the end to end process and whether all components and parties involved meet the requirements for the service to be safe and quality assured
  • whether you would be using the test as intended and detailed by the manufacturer, and whether you have considered the potential limitations of the test in your context and environment (for example its efficacy for asymptomatic patients)
  • whether the results are fed into the wider surveillance network and/ or part of a clinical study
  • whether you have sought appropriate indemnity insurance and been clear with the indemnifier as to what they are offering in comparison to the manufacturer’s intended use
  • how you will make sure that suitable training is delivered for all health care professionals and staff members involved in the service so they aware of their roles and responsibilities, including providing evidence-based information to people using the service in line with government guidelines.     

Communicating with patients and public who don't speak English

Are there any resources available to help me communicate about COVID-19 with patients and the public visiting my pharmacy who do not speak English?

Doctors of the World has translated the latest NHS guidelines on COVID-19 into 44 languages.

You can translate the information on our website using the ReciteMe tool via the ‘Accessibility tools’ link on the top navigation bar.

You may also want to speak to local voluntary organisations representing different communities in your area, if you need specific support with translation.