Infection Prevention and Control (including PPE)

This page provides information on infection prevention and control (IPC), including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Page last updated: June 6, 2022


The UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) has updated its UK IPC guidelines with new Guidance specific to COVID-19 pathogens for health and care professionals. These tips should be read in conjunction with National Infection Prevention and Control Handbook (NIPCM) for England and applies to all NHS settings, including primary care.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have published a letter to help NHS service providers, including community pharmacy contractors, interpret the updated infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance released by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Read the NHSE&I letter

The key points of the NHSE&I letter for community pharmacy are summarized below (the exact interpretation will depend on your local risk assessments):

For health and care staff, including pharmacy staff

  • Staff should continue to wear face masks as part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for transmission-based precautions when working in the COVID-19/respiratory care pathways and when in clinically cares for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients. These are likely settings where untriaged patients may present, such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on the local risk assessment.
  • In general, staff are not required to wear face masks in non-clinical areas, e.g. offices, social venues, unless it is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised through a risk assessment.

The patients

  • Patients with respiratory symptoms who need to present for emergency treatment should wear a mask/covering, if tolerated, or afford one upon arrival.
  • All other patients are not required to wear a face mask unless it is a personal preference.

Any CPI measurements beyond those contained in the above publications are at local discretion.

Pharmacy masks and face coverings

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have issued a letter to help NHS service providers, including community pharmacy contractors, interpret the updated infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines published by the UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA), which includes information on wearing face masks and face coverings in pharmacies:

Read the NHSE&I letter

For health and care staff, including pharmacy staff

  • Staff should continue to wear face masks as part of the personal protective equipment (PPE) required for transmission-based precautions when working in the COVID-19/respiratory care pathways and when in clinically cares for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients. These are likely settings where untriaged patients may present, such as emergency departments or primary care, depending on the local risk assessment.
  • In general, staff are not required to wear face masks in non-clinical areas, e.g. offices, social venues, unless it is their personal preference or there are specific issues raised through a risk assessment.

The patients

  • Patients with respiratory symptoms who need to present for emergency treatment should wear a mask/covering, if tolerated, or afford one upon arrival.
  • All other patients are not required to wear a face mask unless it is a personal preference.

Pharmacy staff are recommended to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Face masks should be Type I or Type ll masks, but if Type IIR face masks are more readily available and there are no supply issues for their use, they can be used as alternative to type I or type II masks.

Pharmacy contractors can continue to order Type IIR face masks and other PPE free of charge from the government’s PPE portal and there are currently no supply issues, so Type IIR masks are the type preferred to use.

The use of the mask must generally be sessional, a session being for example half a day, a new mask being used after a work break.

Other use of PPE in pharmacy

Disposable plastic aprons (single use) and gloves (single use) should be worn when staff are providing direct care to a patient, when there is a risk that the patient is infected with COVID-19 and there is (anticipated) exposure to blood/body fluids or non-intact skin. This scenario is unlikely to occur in general community pharmacy practice.

The use of social distancing and hand hygiene for staff, patients and visitors continues to be a key way to further reduce the risk of transmission.

Obtain PPE supplies

The Government PPE Portal can be used by community pharmacies to get all the COVID-19 PPE they need; supplies will be provided free of charge and the service will operate until March 31, 2023 or until infection prevention and control guidelines are withdrawn or significantly changed.

Pharmacies can order:

  • Type IIR masks;
  • aprons;
  • Gloves;
  • Hand sanitizer; and
  • Visors.

PPE portal platform

Community pharmacy entrepreneurs should use the PPE portal platform to order PPE.

Entrepreneurs who had used the previous PPE portal platform should have received an email to their pharmacy’s NHSmail shared mailbox email address. [email protected] with the subject “Welcome to the PPE portal”. This email lists the steps contractors need to take to register and log in to their account on the current PPE Portal platform.

If contractors have not received this email, they are advised to check their spam/junk mail folders to ensure they have not missed the email. If contractors have not received the email, they are advised to contact DHSC PPE Portal Customer Services directly on 0800 876 6802. The team is available Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

If contractors have received the email and have not yet registered their account, they are advised to do so as soon as possible, as the old PPE Portal platform closed on April 26, 2022. From this date, all contractors attempting to log into the old PPE Portal platform will automatically be redirected to the PPE Portal platform above.

HSE spot checks and pharmacy inspection

Director of Health and Safety (HSE) are undertaking spot checks and inspections of working environments, including community pharmacies, to ensure workplaces are COVID safe – by calling, visiting and inspecting relevant premises. The HSE also assists local authorities, who also undertake inspections of retail premises, including community pharmacies.

Information from the HSE indicates that officers visiting the premises will be carrying their company ID (HSE works with approved partners) and an HSE clearance letter. Calls may currently appear as an unknown number. If you would like to verify that an agent calling or visiting your organization is genuine – something pharmacy contractors are particularly encouraged to do if contact is made by telephone – please call 0300 790 6896.

For more information on HSE during spot checks and inspections, see Work Right – HSE Campaigns.

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For further information on this subject, please email [email protected]

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