100-hour pharmacies are providing patients with a "second-rate" service by limiting access outside standard opening hours, pharmacists have argued.
Pharmacists hit out at the use of hatches and tannoy systems in certain 100-hour pharmacies, branding the practice a "disgrace" that would fail to meet commissioners' and patients' service expectations.
Pharmacies should remain fully open for the duration of the 100 hours and offer the whole range of services, said pharmacists
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The comments came as LPC secretaries reported a number of pharmacies limiting access in their areas, while one pharmacist claimed he had been refused entry into a Boots 100-hour pharmacy during opening hours.
Shabbir Damani, a pharmacist working in Cambridgeshire, said a Boots branch in Bolton would only speak to him through a tannoy system and denied him access to the pharmacy when he attempted to buy medicines at 8am on Christmas Eve. "At a time when the public will be utilising pharmacy the most, this is a real shame that a second-rate service is being provided," he argued.
Boots would not confirm the incident, but told C+D it used a hatch system for its 100-hour pharmacies outside standard hours "to ensure the safety of both our colleagues and customers". The multiple stressed that the branches still offered the full pharmacy dispensing services and advice at all opening times.
Under current regulations, pharmacies are allowed to provide services through a hatch on the condition that it is manned by a member of staff and the premises are visibly open, according to PSNC. Pharmacists must also allow patients to enter the premises if needed.
But some pharmacists said the pharmacies should remain fully open for the duration of the opening hours. Limiting access at certain times was "nothing short of a disgrace", English Pharmacy Board member and contractor Sid Dajani told C+D.
Closing the doors to the pharmacy could deter patients from asking from a private consultation, he said.
"A lot of the time you need the consultation room and it's very difficult through a hatch system to provide that privacy," Mr Dajani stressed. "It's not really giving patients an option [of a private consultation] – it's giving them the option to inconvenience the pharmacist."
North-East London LPC secretary Hemant Patel said he had heard of a pharmacy in his area using a hatch system, but urged businesses to end the practice "as soon as possible". "The whole range of services should be provided during opening hours because that's the expectation of commissioners and the public," he told C+D.
Liverpool LPC secretary Jeremy Clitherow also reported the use of shutters and hatches in his area, and said he had needed to remind 100-hour pharmacies in the area that they must be visibly open.
Pharmacists shared their experience of 100-hour businesses on Twitter:
@CandDEmma Can 100-hour pharmacies get away with only providing services through a hatch at certain times? Getting quite a few reports of this...
@ukpharmacist In a past life I wrote an SOP for safety for an early Boots 100-hour with a hatch. We still invited the punters in...
@tablet_girl A pharmacy I locumed for in Leeds (independent) does this after midnight.
@Xrayser There's a 100-hour near us that just has a bell - ring it at night and the pharmacist gets up from his bed to answer the door..!
@pillmanuk My local 100-hour closes the gates to the car park and people have to walk to be served in a booth and hatch.
What do you think of 100-hour pharmacies using the hatch system?