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PDA: 'Anecdotal' reports of temporary pharmacy closures on the rise

The “anecdotally” reported number of temporary pharmacy closures is "much" higher now compared with 2018, Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day has told C+D.

In 2018, the PDA published the results of freedom-of-information requests it sent to Asda, Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Morrisons, Rowlands, Superdrug, Tesco and Well, which showed that these multiples had temporarily closed an estimated 5,878 times in a 12-month period.

While the PDA does not hold data on the most recent reported temporary pharmacy closures yet, it launched an online reporting tool last week (August 13) to gather more data on this.

“What we’re hearing seems to be [on a] much greater scale than it was in 2018,” Mr Day told C+D in an exclusive interview this week (August 17).

Mr Day said the number of temporary closures seems to be “anecdotally higher now than it was in 2018” when asked by C+D whether the number of reports of temporary closures received by the PDA had gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s bad for patients and for the sector. We want to play our part to make sure pharmacy can account for itself and explain what is happening,” he added.

“We’re also concerned about what it means [for] the long-term reputation of pharmacists and the sector,” he said. “Several health boards have felt the need to write to contractors to say to them, ‘We need to remind you that you have to tell us if you're closed’”, Mr Day claimed.

In an update on its website published today (August 20), the PDA reported that on August 10, the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board had reminded community pharmacy contractors of the process to follow to notify it of temporary closures. According to the PDA, the health board said that, in the week preceding its email, it had not been notified of three temporary pharmacy closures by contractors and had instead been made aware of those by a “third party”.

“It is a big issue for the sector,” Mr Day told C+D. “It wasn’t [previously] reported at the level it’s getting reported now, which suggests it is a big issue, but we haven’t got the detailed numbers.”


CCA: "Confident the situation is improving"


The PDA online reporting tool was initially piloted in Scotland, where the PDA said it received 50 reports of closures in the tool’s first week.

The majority of full- or part-day closures reported via the tool originate from Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) member pharmacies, Mr Day claimed.

CCA CEO Malcolm Harrison told C+D yesterday (August 19) that while the organisation cannot comment “on the details of how our members approach these matters individually…we are confident that the situation is improving”.

“As the holiday season draws to a close and as NHS Test and Trace and social isolation protocols have been amended, we believe that any closures due to shortages are likely to decrease. This will be supported by the influx of new pharmacists as the 2021 cohort of new registrants come on stream in September,” Mr Harrison added.

He added that the CCA is “aware that there have been some significant challenges with resourcing pharmacists in certain locations around the UK recently”.


No shortage of pharmacists


Pharmacists were added to the government’s shortage occupation list earlier this year, but Mr Day told C+D he does not think there is a shortage of pharmacists.

“There’s a shortage of pharmacists who will work for the rates that some employers want to pay,” he said.

The PDA was told of one case where “the difference of what the employer said they were prepared to pay and what the pharmacist was asking for was a pound an hour”, Mr Day claimed.

“Now, if there is a shortage of pharmacists, as employers claim, the basics of economics say, ‘When demand outstrips supply, prices rise’. These are the circumstances but, instead of meeting the rate [the locum asked for], they’re closing,” Mr Day claimed.

How can the sector minimise temporary or partial closures?

Share your views on the hot topics page on the C+D Community.


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