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PDA urges pharmacists to report temporary pharmacy closures to NHSE

The pharmacy union has encouraged pharmacists to use its template to report pharmacies that breach their NHS contract by temporarily closing.  

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) yesterday (January 11) revealed that it is continuing to see examples of community pharmacies closing due to a lack of staff, despite being aware “of a specific individual available to cover the shift”.

One locum PDA member, it added, had asked for “£5 more per hour” for a shift that day - which they “felt was reasonable for agreeing to change [their] plans at short notice”.

The union said that instead, the pharmacy declined “their offer to cover a shift and decided to close the store rather than pay the pharmacist their requested day rate”.

“For the sake of a total of £42.50 extra covering the entire day, the company didn’t fulfil its contract with the NHS to provide [its] core hours service”, the PDA reported.


NHSE investigation requests


The PDA pointed pharmacists to a form it created to help report “unnecessary” temporary pharmacy closures “in response to requests from pharmacists” amid a significant increase in these incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pharmacists can use the union’s template to “raise concerns and formally report” similar situations directly to NHS England (NHSE) or the relevant health board in the devolved nations, the PDA said.

The form sets out concerns about patients being “at risk” due to “the pharmacy contractor opting to close the pharmacy instead of engaging a pharmacist”.

It also highlights that temporary closures are “a potential breach in the provision of NHS essential pharmaceutical services and the terms of service”.

It requests that the closure “is investigated and referred to the Pharmaceutical Services Regulations Committee for any appropriate contractual sanctions”.

The form prompts pharmacists to include the names of pharmacy contractors, as well as the full addresses of pharmacies premises and their head offices if applicable.

The union also encouraged pharmacists to use its “online reporting tool…to help collate information about when and where these closures are occurring”.


Ongoing temporary closures


In 2022, a C+D investigation found that more than 20,000 instances of reported temporary pharmacy closures occurred in England over a 12-month period.

According to C+D’s analysis of the data, pharmacies provided "locum could not be found" as the reason for having to close temporarily in 10,637 instances, while "no cover found" featured 811 times.

In October 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) told C+D that it was “monitoring temporary closures of community pharmacies” and working to understand how it can support affected pharmacies and patients.

And in April, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) – formerly known as the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) - revealed that the total cumulative number of hours of unplanned closures by all affected pharmacies stood at 5,859 over a one-month period.

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