COVID-19 Q&A: for the public

Over the past few months we have compiled answers to all the questions we are being asked in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. We have categorised these by theme, use the links below to navigate to each of the pages

We review this questions and answers page regularly. Last reviewed 28 July 2020.

Using pharmacy services during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: testing kits

Safe Spaces


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.


COVID-19: testing kits

A pharmacy is selling COVID-19 testing kits that have not been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and/or do not have the CE mark. What action will you take?

Pharmacies must not sell products and devices that are illegal for them to sell, or provide misleading information about those products or devices.

Regulatory and public bodies play different leading roles regarding tests, testing and health, in accordance with their remit:

  • Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) oversees the regulation of test kits as medical devices
  • Trading Standards oversees the legality of retail sales (medical or non-medical)
  • The Care Quality Commission, Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales regulate medical services in England, Scotland and Wales respectively
  • Public health agencies for England, Scotland and Wales provide authoritative public health guidance in their respective countries

We expect pharmacies in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) to adhere to guidelines and recommendations issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and public health agencies in England, Scotland and Wales

Please let us know about any pharmacies that may be supplying products that do not appear to adhere to guidance published by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Public Health England by raising a concern. We will then consider what action to take. Please also report this to the MHRA.

A pharmacy is offering an antibody rapid test service. Is this allowed?

Antibody tests are used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if you have previously had the virus. Public Health England currently advises against the use of rapid point of care tests – where results can usually be obtained within 10 minutes – due to insufficient information about their accuracy and suitability for diagnosing COVID-19.

Our Chief Executive and Registrar Duncan Rudkin has written to pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists via email to highlight our position concerning the provision and sale of COVID-19 rapid antibody tests from community pharmacies.

Duncan explains that in the light of current public health advice, it is not appropriate for them to be sold in community pharmacies or recommended by pharmacy professionals at this point in time.

We therefore do not expect pharmacies to continue to provide tests which do not adhere to guidance from the public health agencies in Great Britain. Where we have been made aware that a pharmacy is offering these tests we’ve told them to stop doing so.

Please let us know about any pharmacies providing tests that do not adhere to guidance from the MHRA or public health agencies by raising a concern. We will then consider what action to take.

Please also report this to the MHRA. We will keep our position under review in light of any changes to the situation, including any changes in guidance from the MHRA or public health agencies.

We do not have the jurisdiction over and would not advise on the legality, safety or efficacy of particular types of tests or kit.

What kind of COVID-19 tests are available to members of the public and safe to use?

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has produced a guide to COVID-19 tests and testing kits and their uses. There are tests for current infection, that is, if you currently have the COVID-19 virus, and there are antibody tests, that is tests for if you have already had the infection.

Tests for antibodies continue to be developed and validated, please refer to the MHRA and PHE for further guidance. The MHRA strongly advises members of the public or organisations who have purchased antibody tests and received antibody test results to continue to follow government advice whatever the result of the test.

We do not have the jurisdiction over and would not advise on the legality, safety or efficacy of particular types of tests or kit.


Safe Spaces

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.