Regulator develops Operational Standards for pharmacies during pandemic

The standards cover areas including infection prevention and control, patient, and staff safety

The pharmacy regulator, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), has developed Covid-19 Operational Standards for Pharmacies for use during the pandemic. This is a further development in how the PSI regulates the pharmacy sector and is intended to provide guidance and support to those in leadership and governance positions in the retail pharmacy sector in continuing to ensure safe services and a safe environment for patients, public and staff.

The standards cover a range of areas including infection prevention and control, patient, and staff safety, as well as continuity planning to ensure the ongoing provision of pharmacy and medicine services. The standards were developed by the PSI in cooperation with a safety collaborative made up of practising pharmacists, the Irish Pharmacy Union, the Health Service Executive, the Department of Health, and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Commenting on the standards, Niall Byrne, Registrar and Chief Officer, PSI said: “Our standards will help assure the public that pharmacies are committed to providing consistently high quality and safe services as well as supporting pharmacies to respond to further changes and challenges which may arise during the course of the pandemic.”

The standards are being implemented initially through a “use and learn” period. This is to allow pharmacies to assess themselves against the standards and introduce any changes, or additional measures, that may be necessary.

The length of the ‘use and learn’ period will be flexible, according to Byrne. “Over the next two months we will be engaging with the pharmacy sector in a process of mutual learning to better understand how our standards work in practice. This feedback will help us to develop an efficient and effective monitoring programme for implementation later in 2020/2021.

“We have provided indicators for each of the five standards which we expect pharmacies to meet. The indicators will help those in governance and leadership positions in pharmacies to identify gaps that exist and to act to address these. The indicators are not intended to be definitive — we welcome and encourage innovation in how pharmacies meet these standards. What matters ultimately is that pharmacies use robust evidence-based indicators to assess the quality and safety of their own services,” said Byrne.

Emergency business continuity planning for potential temporary closures eg during the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the measures that the PSI would expect in any pharmacy that meets the new standards. Other measures include ensuring all staff, including pharmacists, take appropriate work breaks, as well as having systems in place to support staff who may be suffering from anxiety or work-related stress due to the current pressures.

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