There are still 100-hour pharmacies opening across England, despite the exemption being removed 15 months ago, C+D has learned.
Pharmacy brokers and lawyers said 100-hour pharmacies were continuing to open on the back of applications submitted before September last year, when the exemption was still valid.
They said these applications were fuelling the rate of pharmacy openings, which averaged 15 a month between September 2012 and March 2013, according to NHS figures released last month.
This was the same level seen in 2008-09, when the 100-hour exemption was in force. It was half the rate seen in the five months leading up to September 2012, when new pharmacy openings reached a peak of 32 a month.
100-hour applications submitted before September last year are fuelling the rate of pharmacy openings
More on 100-hour pharmacies
Brokerage group Christie+Co said 100-hour contracts were continuing to influence the market. "It's not unusual for there to be a period of six to nine months from when the contract opens, so I'm not surprised the rate of openings has not slowed," said Matthew Williamson, head of pharmacy advisory services.
"Indeed, a member of the Christie+Co team went to see a 100-hour contract in early December that only opened two weeks previously," he told C+D.
Law firm Rushport also reported helping a 100-hour pharmacy open just last month. The application was initially refused because there was another pharmaceutical service nearby. Once this had closed, the new application was allowed on appeal, Rushport explained. "It looks like 100-hour pharmacies will still be opening for some time to come," the law firm forecast.
But Noel Wardle, partner at Charles Russell, said this month would be the last chance for the majority of 100-hour pharmacies to open. "Applications could have had a maximum lifespan of 15 months, so an application granted in September 2012 may have until December 2013 to commence services," he told C+D.
Scott Hayton, pharmacy consultant at Hutchings Consultants, said he expected the pharmacy market to be much quieter in 2014. "I think [openings] will go down significantly once the window to open 100-hour pharmacies is gone," he told C+D.
Are you still facing a 100-hour threat in your community?