Last week, several people shared their concerns on Twitter that Lloydspharmacy was opting to provisionally close some of its branches rather than increase its locum pay rate to find pharmacist cover.
In response, a Lloydspharmacy spokesperson told C+D that the multiple is “aware of the complaints and our superintendent pharmacist is currently conducting an investigation”.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) “has been informed of this”, the spokesperson added.
A GPhC spokesperson confirmed to C+D that the regulator contacted Lloydspharmacy superintendent Victoria Steele, but they were not able to share further details.
Locum shifts left unfilled
One Twitter user provided a list of Lloydspharmacy branches they said they were aware had to temporarily close due to poor staffing levels. The branches remained closed despite locum pharmacists having applied to cover the shifts advertised by those same pharmacies, they claimed.
Paisley – 4713— ThePharmacist (@ThePharmassist) March 15, 2021
Causeyside street – 4725
Falkirk – 6548
West kilbride – 5267
Leith – 2304
Bellyeoman Road – 6204
York Place - 5507@SteelieV
All these stores closed today when I have seen numerous offers for the shifts. Can you explain Victoria?
Another user worried that the temporary closures would put patients at risk, leaving them unable to collect their medicines.
@LloydsPharmacy more pharmacies closed due to poor staffing. @TheGPhC everyday this continues. @NHSBSA I hope this is being chased up! Shocking behaviour, what are you doing to safeguard patients from harm due to no access to medicines. @the_pda @PharmacistCoop @ChemistDruggist pic.twitter.com/FFUlQsiVS2— G Upton (@pharming247) March 18, 2021
Locum pharmacist Tohidul Islam actively asked the GPhC on Twitter whether they would investigate the closures highlighted by a Twitter user. This prompted the regulator to respond that the issue would be raised with the multiple’s superintendent.
Hello, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will be raising this with the superintendent of these pharmacies.— GPhC (@TheGPhC) March 16, 2021
Mr Islam told C+D today (March 22) that he has received a “large number of reports from locums all over the UK who have said they were ready and willing to cover Lloydspharmacy branches, but claim they were refused over a difference of a couple of pounds per hour”.
PDA: Not just one employer
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director Paul Day told C+D last week that this issue does not concern “just one employer”.
“Having pharmacists available in the community is a valuable part of the health service, so when patients are denied access to their local pharmacy because it closes unnecessarily, it is a concern,” Mr Day said.
The pharmacy contractor might also be in breach of their NHS agreement in the instance of these specific closures, Mr Day added.
“If the contractor claims the closure is because no locum was available, but locums know for certain that they were available and had told that contractor that they were available, that can raise further questions about what is happening and could even be of interest to the regulator,” according to Mr Day.
The PDA had noticed an increase in these reports of closures in England last year, he added. This prompted the union to create a template that locums can use to flag these occurrences to NHS England and NHS Improvement.
“[The PDA] will continue to help the NHS by supporting our members in highlighting such instances in all four of the UK nations,” he added.