NHSE&I will not direct “all pharmacies in England to open on May 25, as was the case at Easter and [on] May 8”, it said in its latest COVID-19 primary care bulletin, published yesterday (May 19).
The commissioning body thanked pharmacy teams for “working over previous bank holidays”, as well as the pharmacies that have volunteered to open the upcoming bank holiday.
“Our regional teams will continue to work closely with local providers to ensure they have adequate access to pharmaceutical services on this day for their local populations,” NHSE&I said.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said NHSE&I could potentially use its powers “to require some pharmacies to open to ensure such adequate provision, if this is deemed appropriate”.
A “well-deserved breather”
Commenting on the announcement, PSNC director of operations and support Gordon Hockey said that PSNC had argued against the need for blanket bank holiday openings during the pandemic “from the outset”, as local arrangements “would have been sufficient to meet patient needs”.
“While we are pleased that NHSE&I has now recognised there is no need for them to impose bank holiday opening on pharmacies, we are disappointed that the announcement has been made with less than a week to go,” he added.
A National Pharmacy Association spokesperson told C+D today (May 20) that pharmacy teams “have been working exceptionally hard during the coronavirus crisis and need to have opportunities to rest”.
“This bank holiday will give people a much needed and well-deserved breather,” they added.
The Company Chemists' Association CEO Malcolm Harrison told C+D today that the organisation welcomes NHSE&I’s “pragmatic and patient need-led approach to the provision of pharmacy services for the forthcoming bank holiday”.
“We are confident that our members will be able to provide a good level service, guided by their understanding of local patient needs,” Mr Harrison added.
Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, also welcomed the NHSE&I announcement, saying that “frontline pharmacists have been working relentlessly hard since the start of COVID-19 and really need this break”.
Under the National Health Service (Amendments Relating to the Provision of Primary Care Services During a Pandemic etc.) Regulations 2020, NHSE&I was able to mandate pharmacies in England to open from 2pm to 5pm on May 8 and on April 10-13.
Last month (April 24), pharmacies in Scotland were asked to open, where possible, on either one or both of the two May bank holidays. Those deciding to open will receive £1,200 for a full day opening or £700 for a half day opening.