General Pharmaceutical Council chief executive Duncan Rudkin has said the regulator will raise awareness among pharmacy employers of their legal obligation to report occupational Covid-19 infections through its inspections and contact with pharmacy teams.
In a letter to the Pharmacists’ Defence Association yesterday, in which the regulator responded to the question of whether it intended to investigate why some employers had allegedly failed to report infections, Mr Rudkin said the GPhC expected “pharmacy owners to keep up to date with and follow relevant guidance produced” by the Health and Safety Executive.
Employers have a legal duty to report occupational exposure to disease but not cases or deaths involving the public, patients, care home residents or service users.
Reports must be made to the HSE under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). Rudkin warned employers that failure to report could result in prosecution.
“We have contacted the HSE to raise awareness of this issue more widely and we will also do this through our inspection work and our contact with pharmacy employers and pharmacy teams on the ground. This includes signposting employers to the relevant requirements,” he said.
The PDA told Independent Community Pharmacist it welcomed Rudkin’s response but said it wanted to “see proper reporting of workplace exposure to coronavirus to support those affected and so the country can be better prepared for the next pandemic.”
“As the GPhC point out, failure to report could be a criminal offence, and should a pharmacy owner or manager be prosecuted for an offence we believe the GPhC would also need to consider action relating to that person or company,” a PDA spokesperson said.
“However, while it was inconceivable that no exposure would have occurred in community pharmacy, it has always been employers that would know where and when such incidents had occurred.
“Since writing to the GPhC, the government have confirmed a small number of cases have now been reported from community pharmacy and this suggests the PDA’s efforts raising the issue may be making a difference.
“Some reports of workplace exposure to the virus is significantly different from none and so the concern has evolved from a potential wholesale lack of reporting, possibly even a policy of non-reporting, to whether particular instances have or have not been reported.”
The PDA urged pharmacists who believe they have been infected with the virus while at work to “raise this matter formally with their employer even if it were some time ago.”
The spokesperson added: “Individuals should request confirmation that a RIDDOR report has been submitted and ask that they be provided with a copy. PDA members can also discuss their situation with us and ask for support in getting comprehensive answers from their employer if they cannot get these initially.
“Ultimately if there are cases where employers have not made reports of a workplace exposure, we will expect the failure to report to be highlighted to the HSE and for both them and the regulator to take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis.”