COVID-19 Q&A: for the public

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 updated 15 February 2021

COVID-19 vaccination programme

COVID-19: testing kits

Using pharmacy services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Safe Spaces    


COVID-19 vaccination programme

Can I get my COVID-19 vaccination at my local pharmacy?

COVID-19 vaccinations will not be offered in local community pharmacies at this stage.  Instead vaccinations will take place at a designated site for COVID-19 vaccinations in your area, which may be coordinated by GPs or by a pharmacy. Please wait to receive more information from the NHS about where and when you may be vaccinated.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)  has published advice on the groups that will be prioritised for vaccination.  Follow this link to see the adviceplease note this is subject to change. 

Is it safe to get my vaccination from a pharmacy professional and/or at a pharmacy-led site?

You can expect the same standard of care wherever you get your COVID-19 vaccination.  Pharmacy professionals and pharmacy-led vaccination sites have to meet our standards for safe and effective care, so you can feel confident when receiving your vaccination. 

Can I book a vaccination through my pharmacy?

The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme is now underway in the UK. Please wait until you receive an invitation from the NHS to book your vaccination- you cannot book a vaccination until you have received an invitation. The invitation will tell you where and when you may be vaccinated.

NOTE: Watch out for fake texts and emails telling people they’re eligible to apply for the COVID-19 vaccine and asking for bank details. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) have received evidence of fraudulent messages sent to the public informing them that a dose of the new COVID-19 vaccine is available to them.

 


COVID-19: testing kits

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

As the global pandemic progresses there is an increasing variety of testing kits 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. 

Can I get tested for COVID-19 at my local pharmacy? 

Please do not visit your local pharmacy if you or anyone you live with has any symptoms of COVID-19.

You can get a free NHS test to check if you have coronavirus via the gov.uk website

Antigen tests

Some pharmacies are offering antigen tests (which check if you currently are infected with COVID-19) to asymptomatic people - for example ‘fit to fly’ tests which you may need to enter another country. 

Pharmacies and pharmacy professionals have to make sure they are meeting our standards for safe and effective pharmacy practice when providing any type of test.

Antibody tests

Antibody tests check for antibodies to see if you have had an infection with the virus in the past. There are some tests which give you rapid results in the pharmacy, and other tests where the sample is sent to a lab.

In light of Public Health England guidance updated on 1 February 2021, we are asking pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals to carefully consider both the PHE and other relevant guidance, before deciding whether it is appropriate to offer rapid/ point of care/ near-person antibody tests for COVID-19, or any other type of COVID-19 test. 

Where can I find out more about COVID-19 testing kits?

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has produced a guide to COVID-19 tests and testing kits and their uses.   


Using pharmacy services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will my pharmacy be open as usual?

Pharmacies and pharmacy professionals are working on the frontline, under significant pressure, to support the public and patients. Some pharmacies may need to adjust their opening hours or close for periods during the day to ensure that prescriptions are dispensed safely and that all staff can take necessary breaks. Pharmacies need to make clear to the public how long they’ll be closed for and where the nearest open pharmacy is.
 

What social distancing measures are there in pharmacies?

Social distancing is the most effective protection against the spread of COVID-19. Pharmacies are making changes to support social distancing such as limiting the number of people allowed in at any one time or putting up plastic screens around the pharmacy counter. Please make sure you follow any social distancing measures put in place by the pharmacy.
 

Do people need to wear a face mask when going into a pharmacy?

Yes. In England and Scotland it is now mandatory to wear a face mask when visiting a pharmacy. In Wales, the Welsh government has advised the use of face masks in situations where social distancing may be difficult.
 

A pharmacy is inflating prices for non-medicine items such as hand sanitiser or masks. Is this a breach of your standards and will you investigate this pharmacy?

We have issued a statement from our Chief Executive which makes clear that profiteering during the current challenging situation by inflating prices of shortage products risks bringing the profession into disrepute.

We are reminding pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals that they need to continue meeting our standards at all times during the pandemic.

Can the pharmacy give me advice and medicines to help me treat the symptoms of coronavirus?

Do not go into a pharmacy, GP or hospital if you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms (high temperature or a new, continuous cough).

You can ask someone else to collect your medicines for you, or order online.
Read the NHS advice on what to do if you or a family member has symptoms of coronavirus.
 

How can I keep safe when going online for medicines or treatments?

Some people may prefer to get their medicines online during the pandemic. In conjunction with other health organisations, we have issued guidance for patients and the public on keeping safe when going online for medicines or treatment [PDF 504 KB].
 

Can I still get my medicines in a dosette box / multi-compartment compliance aid pack?

You or your relatives / carers should let the pharmacy know if you need to continue to receive your medicines in a compliance pack so that you can take them safely.

Pharmacies are under a lot of pressure due to potential staff shortages, increased pharmacy workload and numerous other factors which mean they may not be able to provide medicines in multi-compartment compliance aid (MCA) packs (dosette boxes) to all patients who may usually have them.

There are risks that come with more handling of individual medicines when assembling compliance packs which need to be balanced with the risks of patients being unable to continue to take their medicines safely. Pharmacy professionals need to exercise their professional judgement and risk assess the need to continue to supply compliance packs to vulnerable patients.
 

A pharmacy is making claims about a product that is not based on evidence and national guidance (such as claiming that certain types of face mask provide protection against COVID-19 when the evidence suggests those particular types do not). Will you investigate?

Pharmacy owners, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must provide accurate and evidence-based information about products and make sure people have all the relevant information in a way they can understand. This will allow people to make informed decisions and choices.

The pharmacy owner would need to undertake due diligence to make sure that any products they sell are fit for purpose and make sure they follow national requirements and guidance on advertising and marketing products.

We expect pharmacy owners to consider relevant guidance from appropriate bodies such as the MHRA, Public Health England and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) when providing information on products.

Please let us know about any pharmacies that you believe are making inappropriate claims about a product by raising a concern: we will then consider what action to take.

Please also report this to the MHRA. Advertising a product or making claims for a product that is not fit for purpose could also be a matter for the Advertising Standards Authority or Trading Standards, so you may also want to raise a concern with these bodies.    


Support for people experiencing domestic abuse

Are pharmacies taking part in the Safe Space initiative?

We are encouraging all pharmacies to consider becoming a Safe Space, to help people experiencing domestic abuse access vital support they may need.

Pharmacies are already playing a vital role in supporting the healthcare needs of patients and the public during the COVID 19 pandemic. With the availability of private consultation rooms, pharmacies are one of the few community spaces that are open with the facilities to support people who may be experiencing domestic abuse and need help.

Pharmacies can become a Safe Space today by following the simple steps on uksaysnomore.org/safespaces and email uksaysnomore@hestia.org to notify them that you have become a Safe Space.

Pharmacies participating in the scheme will display a poster within the pharmacy. This poster encourages people needing help to go to the pharmacy counter and ask to use their consultation room.
 

What support will be provided?

People will be able to use the consultation room in the pharmacy to access dedicated support:

  • 24-hour National domestic abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247
  • Men’s advice line: 0808 801 032
  • Scotland - Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (freephone 24/7): 0800 027 123
  • Wales - Live Fear Free Helpline (freephone 24/7): 0808 801 0800
  • Northern Ireland - Domestic and Sexual Abuse: 0808 802 141
  • Signposting to download free mobile app Bright Sky, which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know.

What pharmacies are offering the Ask for Ani scheme?

As of January 2021, Boots pharmacies and a number of independent pharmacies are offering the government backed domestic abuse Ask for ANI codeword scheme. The scheme will be initially available through the 2,300 Boots stores across the UK as well as 255 independent pharmacies. 

The Ask for ANI scheme allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help and access support. By asking for ANI, a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space where they can understand if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services such as a national or local domestic abuse helplines. 

The codeword scheme will complement the charity Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE Safe Spaces initiative by enabling pharmacy staff to offer immediate and emergency assistance.