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CCA hits back at ‘insulting’ PDA open letter on temporary pharmacy closures

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has come out swinging against claims that some large pharmacy chains are needlessly closing branches for full or part days.

Retaining staff is becoming “increasingly tough” and its members are “working extraordinarily hard to prevent temporary closures”, the CCA said in response to a scathing open letter penned by Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) chairman Mark Koziol on Tuesday (July 19).

Citing “grave concerns about patient safety”, Mr Koziol’s letter claimed that “large multiple operators” were unnecessarily closing branches and accused government officials and local NHS organisations of being “unwilling or unable to act” to prevent further temporary closures.


Read more: ‘No one’s taking responsibility’: PDA pens open letter on temporary closures


But the CCA countered that it is “frankly insulting” for Mr Koziol to “deny what is plain to see” after he heard first-hand accounts of contractors’ difficulties in sourcing enough staff to open their pharmacies at an All-Party Pharmacy Group event in February.

Positive change can happen with the “support that can only come from a co-ordinated approach to addressing workforce shortages across the whole of primary care”, the representative group said in a statement released yesterday (July 20).

C+D has contacted the PDA for comment.


“Fanciful” to think pharmacy immune to shortages


In his letter, Mr Koziol said that many large chains’ “unnecessary” temporary branch closures – which he claimed are often falsely attributed to a disputed national shortage of pharmacists – instead “appear to be caused by commercial considerations”.

But the CCA branded this accusation “highly inflammatory”.

“The truth of the matter is that all pharmacy businesses are reporting that they are struggling to find the registered professionals needed to open their pharmacies,” it said.

It is “fanciful…to assume that pharmacies would be immune” to staffing pressures, as recruitment issues are being felt across the healthcare system, it commented.


Catch up with C+D’s Big Debate: Is there a shortage of community pharmacists?


It pledged to continue to push NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care to “establish the facts about the scale of the workforce crisis across the UK” and meet the short- and long-term needs of the primary care sector.

It is not the first time the CCA and PDA have come to blows on pharmacy workforce issues.

In March, the PDA said it had been “challenged to a public debate” by the CCA after the representative group accused it of “dismissing” staffing pressures in community pharmacy.


PDA fires back


The back and forth between the PDA and CCA has continued, with the union today (July 22) challenging “anyone to explain how cancelling the booking of a pharmacist, who has already agreed to work a shift […] equates to a shortage of pharmacists”.

The issue of temporary pharmacy closures seems to have “mutated further” over the past week, the union stated, with companies deeming it “appropriate to cancel previously agreed bookings”.

It comes after the PDA raised reports earlier this week (July 19) that Tesco Pharmacy is allegedly pressuring locums to agree to lower rates for pre-booked shifts or else see those hours cancelled.

In response to these allegations, Tesco pointed C+D towards its new “higher” standard locum rates, which it introduced this week (July 18).

The PDA claims to have received reports from its members that contractors are choosing to close their pharmacies instead of paying locums their asking rate. Members subsequently reported that pharmacies were closed “with no apparent evidence of any attempt to book a locum”, the PDA claimed.

It is down to the NHS and regulatory bosses to whom the PDA directed its open letter earlier this week to resolve this “serious issue relating to patient safety”, the union said.

The “responsibility for resolving this issue, and the power to do so, resides between” them, it stressed.


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