A major pharmacy chain has been accused of breaching NHS health worker rules by allowing Covid-positive staff to work with the public if they feel "well enough".

Well Pharmacy, which is the UK's largest independent provider, has advised employees that it is their personal choice whether they report to work, although staff are encouraged to "think of others".

A union that represents pharmacists said the advice was at odd with government guidelines and was putting vulnerable customers and staff at risk.

The Scottish Government said healthcare staff with a positive test were still required to isolate for ten days but employees could return to work within seven days if they had two negative lateral flow tests (24 hours apart) and did not have a fever.

In addition, pharmacy regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council stipulates that, “All healthcare staff who have received a positive Covid-19 test result, regardless of whether they have symptoms, are advised not to attend work for 5 days." 

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A spokesman for the Pharmacists' Defence Union (PDA) said several members had raised concerns that symptomatic employees with a confirmed infection were being allowed to work.

He said: "The PDA share the concerns of members that vulnerable patients and vulnerable colleagues who have a reasonable expectation of rigorous infection control procedures in any healthcare setting, could be exposed to the Covid-19 virus by the policy of permitting positive employees to attend work.

"The policy of this pharmacy multiple appears at odds with the latest NHS Guidance.

"I don’t think any rational person would enter a pharmacy expecting to meet staff with active Covid infections. 

"Employers may need to ensure full sick pay is available to ensure individuals can afford to stay at home.

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He said the problem had arisen because the provision of community pharmacy services is sub-contracted out to businesses, adding: "Well Pharmacy’s senior management have demonstrated that profit is more important to them than any sense of responsibility to staff, many of whom are low paid, and to their patients, many of whom are vulnerable. 

"It’s also worth remembering that a vulnerable patient does not need to visit one of Well’s pharmacies to catch Covid, a family member or a carer could easily and innocently take the virus from the pharmacy into the patients’ homes."

Well Pharmacy has 760 branches across the UK including six in Glasgow.

Like most pharmacies, staff provide a range of vaccinations and health checks as well as issuing prescriptions. 

The company did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Herald but according to the PDA confirmed that the approach is in line with company policy which states, “isolation is a personal choice” and is in line with the Government Living with Covid guidance.

The business said managers “continue to encourage colleagues and managers to take a common-sense approach saying "If anyone presents too unwell to be at work, we encourage/request they remain at home until they feel better (regardless of covid status)”.

Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions have been eased further this weekend with self-isolation requirements scrapped.

Instead, Scots are advised to “stay at home” if they are unwell.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We expect all healthcare staff, including those working in community pharmacies, to follow the current Covid-19 guidelines. 

"Staff should take a test if they have symptoms of Covid-19.

"Positive cases need to isolate for 10 days, but they can shorten isolation and can return to work from day seven of their self-isolation, if they have two consecutive negative LFD tests taken 24 hours apart (day 6 and day 7), and do not have a fever for 48 hours.”