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Pharmacies in England might be asked to open on May bank holidays

Ed Waller: Giving “fair warning to people that that’s what’s coming at the moment”
Ed Waller: Giving “fair warning to people that that’s what’s coming at the moment”

NHS England has said it could ask pharmacies to open on the May bank holidays but is currently unable to give “a final decision” as discussions are still ongoing.

NHS England is determined to give pharmacies “more notice” on bank holiday openings in May than it did for the Easter holidays, Ed Waller, director for primary care strategy at NHS England and Improvement, said at a community pharmacy-focussed webinar yesterday (April 22).

The NHS will try to “strike the right balance” between having a consistent national message on opening hours and allowing for flexibility locally, in “the same way we did at Easter”, Mr Waller added.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is "seeking terms similar to those put in place for Easter and has requested that a decision is made as soon as practicable because contractors have limited time to make the necessary staffing arrangements," Gordon Hockey, PSNC’s director of operations, told C+D today (April 23).

“Significant number” of scripts

Data shows that “a significant number [of scripts] were written on the two bank holidays over Easter”, Mr Waller said.

He added that this is informing “our decision-making” on opening over the May bank holidays, but said NHS England is also considering the feedback it has received from the sector's representative bodies.

More pharmacies than usual might be needed to open on May 8 and May 25, “and something akin to what happened at Easter will probably be happening”, Mr Waller said.

He added that this is “fair warning to people that that’s what’s coming at the moment”.

Not a “final decision”

However, Mr Waller clarified that a “debate with others”, including the PSNC and the government, is required before “a final decision” on the May bank holiday opening hours can be reached.

“We are not in a position to say today what the precise answer is, I’m sorry”, he added.

The NHS has powers to require pharmacies to change their opening hours under the National Health Service (Amendments Relating to the Provision of Primary Care Services During a Pandemic etc.) Regulations 2020.

Earlier this month, pharmacies in England were asked to open from 2pm to 5pm on Good Friday and Easter Monday, a decision that was announced with just a week's notice and met with frustration by the sector.

At the time, the PSNC had said that the decision had “been made unilaterally” by NHS England.

Contractors can claim £250 for each of the three hours they were asked to open over the Easter bank holiday, using the manage your service portal. They can submit their claims until May 5 and are expected to receive their payments on June 1.

Would you have enough staff to open on the May bank holidays?

Ghengis Pharm, Locum pharmacist

I suggest all contractors who don't want to open on the Bank Holidays arrange to have their pharmacies 'decontaminated' on those days as per PSNC guidance.

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

Why???? people do not need a pharmacy more on lockdown than they do anywhen else!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Opening on Bank Holidays makes no sense. Here's why:

With lockdown in place, there is no significant time restriction for people to obtain a medication; with the majority of the populace in quarantine, there is no benefit to be made there.

It is an additional expense that pharmacies simply cannot handle right now. Furthermore, having one pharmacy in an area to facilitate urgent treatments is perfectly sufficient, in my opinion.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

As I understand it, the driver for pharmacies opening is that GP surgeries will be open "as normal". Let's just look at that for a minute.

First of all, GP surgeries are NOT "open as normal" because they have stopped the public going in and do most of their consulting by phone/video, so could be sat at home in their PJ's or boxers whilst working'as normal'.

Second, most GP surgeries have multiple GPs working in them so could easily draw straws to see who gets to work BH (but will undoubtedly be off the day before & the next working day after), unlike pharmacies which are mostly single-pharmacist set-ups, so the poor slob who has been slogging their guts out all week, as  abonus, gets to work on the (now moved) BH and then, to top it off, is probably back in work the next day because, unlike GPs, Saturday is a working day for pharmacy. 

It's not about the rota payment - although that will be welcome - it's about giving the pharmacy teams a bit of a break. It was bad enough loosing the two days off together when May BH became VE BH, but this is just rubbing it in!

I'll make a deal - I'll work BH Friday if I can speak to every member of NHSE on the day and they can satisfactorily prove they are working! And that includes Keith Ridge!!!

Michael Lord, Community pharmacist

Many multiples didn't open, I wonder how many claims for payment are made in "error"?

Robert Mitchell, Community pharmacist

Am I right in thinking the 25th May is potentially Eid?

Watto 59, Community pharmacist

As an aside I have spent far too long in attempting to claim for the Bank Holday payment, smart card access to MYS for Bank Holiday Claim does not work and the email access does not either unless or until you find out through a series of e mails to NHS business that another form has to be filled in and emailed back to them.  I am at the waiting stage for this to happen as I write. Why does anything concerning NHS admin have to be so clunky and cumbersome ?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

So that you give it up as a bad job and don't actually claim for anything. ETP works (or rather doesn't) in a very similar way.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Maybe & determined to give pharmacies “more notice”

Makes no sense.

1. With the lockdown in place, every day is a Bank Holiday. So why take so long to decide?

2. Will 1 (3 hrs) day make a real difference? Specially when there will be some Pharmacies open that have been directed by the local NHSE area team.

Either way, for those Pharmacies (mostly small, rural) owned and managed by a Pharmacist, this is a good way to get some extra cash to cover their losses from dispensing. Have the morning off, rest well, open at 2pm do any roll over work and shut at 5pm.

Dave Downham, Manager

Make. A. Decision. Please.

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