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GP surgery sorry for suggesting patients avoid Lloydspharmacy branch

A GP surgery in Devon has apologised for sending a letter to staff and patients “erroneously but in good faith” announcing it had removed a Lloydspharmacy branch as patients’ nominated pharmacy in response to the pharmacy’s unplanned closures.

Devonport Health Centre in Plymouth told local pharmacy colleagues it would no longer send electronic prescriptions to the Lloydspharmacy branch on Marlborough Street, in a letter seen by C+D.

The practice’s decision came after “tough few months” of “irregular opening hours and poor communication channels”, which increased its workload and “reduced patient safety”, it wrote.

Informing patients of its decision, Devonport Health Centre wrote in a separate letter that the branch would be removed as their nominated pharmacy from Monday, August 15.

However, a spokesperson for the GP practice told C+D that any changes to patients’ nominations has been done with their “explicit consent”. Read the GP practice’s full response below.

Read more: Multiples’ part-closure rate 15 times higher than independents, PDA claims

“We will encourage patients to nominate a new pharmacy, but we cannot enforce this,” it added in its letter to pharmacies.

Meanwhile, it told patients they could choose to change their nominated pharmacy or collect a token from the surgery after their prescription had been issued electronically and collect it from “any pharmacy”.

Repeat dispensing batches would have continued to be held by the Lloydspharmacy branch “until the batch ends”, so it advised patients they could ask Lloydspharmacy to return any remaining ones to the NHS Spine.

Lloydspharmacy cited workforce issues as a reason behind the branch's temporary closures, although it is "actively recruiting", it told C+D.


Letter was issued "erroneously but in good faith”


A Devonport Health Centre spokesperson told C+D that the letter to patients was “issued erroneously but in good faith in order to find a safe solution to the problems faced by pharmacy closures”.

The surgery “had the patient at the heart of our concerns”, they added.

“We were wrong to assume implied consent was enough; we apologise for this. At this time, any changes to nominations have been done with explicit consent,” they said.

“We have never advised our patients on which pharmacy they should use, nor have we directed them away from any specific pharmacy. We have advised them that by removing the nomination, their prescription will be available to them without duplication or added stress.”

Read more: Tesco slammed as Lancashire pharmacy branch faces potential slew of closures

Since the letter’s publication, the surgery has met with NHS Devon integrated care board, Devon local medical committee, Devon local pharmaceutical committee and Lloydspharmacy, C+D understands.

They came up with “a clear plan of action ensuring safe prescribing and safe supply of our patients’ medications”, the spokesperson told C+D.

Given the “incredible pressures” nationally on both general practice and community pharmacy, "we are very pleased with the outcome we have reached with our community pharmacy colleagues”, they added. 


Lloydspharmacy: “Addressing the recent challenges”


Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Lloydspharmacy told C+D yesterday (August 17) that its Marlborough Street branch “had been operating reduced hours” and while it is “actively recruiting to strengthen our team”, due to “a sector-wide shortage of pharmacists, this has become increasingly difficult”.

Pharmacists were added to the government’s shortage occupation list last year in a decision that was welcomed by some employers but questioned by some locums and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA).

It follows a continued debate in the sector about whether workforce issues in community pharmacy are down to a shortage of pharmacists or rather a lack of pharmacists willing to work in the sector in its current state.

Lloydspharmacy told C+D that the multiple “would like to apologise to our customers and patients for any inconvenience caused”.

Read more: Lack of funding and workforce issues to blame for temporary closures, say LPCs

The chain is “working closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and Devonport Health Centre to ensure our patients can continue to access the medicines and pharmacy services they need”, they added.

“As always, patient safety is our priority, and we are addressing the recent challenges that our pharmacy has been facing.”

Earlier this month, BBC Spotlight interviewed C+D about the “complex issue” of temporary closures, after two other Lloydspharmacy branches in Devon faced criticism over frequent closures.

The debate on part or full-day pharmacy closures and the causes behind them has intensified over the past few months, culminating in the PDA’s decision to refer NHSE&I to the Information Commissioner’s Office on Tuesday (August 16), over alleged failures to share data on closures.


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