During a consultation on the statutory review into NHS market entry regulations, “some business stakeholders raised a concern about the commercial viability of 100-hour-per-week pharmacies”, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said.
“Evidence was supplied indicating a very low use of early- and late-hour pharmaceutical services from this type of pharmacy, as well as data on the associated staffing costs,” the DH added in the review, published last month (March 29).
The DH recommended a “review of 100-hours-a-week pharmacies that analyses who uses these services” and consider “remov[ing] or reduc[ing] the requirements” for these businesses to open for 100 hours.
Hampshire contractor and RPS English board member Sid Dajani tweeted to C+D that the sector “must move heaven and earth in opposing” the proposals.
100-hour pharmacies were introduced “to increase out-of-hours access to those needing medicines and avoid using emergency services for common ailments”, Mr Dajani claimed.
“[The DH’s] reversal is cynical, [and] only burdens A&E [and] NHS 111 [services], costs taxpayers more [and] is bad for self-care and patients,” he added.
He urged the RPS, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) to work together to fight the proposals.
Impact on independents
In contrast, Raza Ali, owner and superintendent at Riverside Pharmacy in Nottingham said: “As an independent contractor operating [a] 100-hour [pharmacy and] pitted against several multiples, [changing the regulations] would level the playing field.”
Mr Ali claimed “a lot of multiples did abuse the system”, but argued that not all 100-hour pharmacies “should be put in the same box”.
Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director of JWW Allison & Sons Ltd in Cockermouth, Cumbria, stressed: “One of the things that makes [100-hour pharmacies] great are the extended hours they offer.”
However, Mr Mitchell said his own pharmacy and two others nearby “became either unviable or not far off unviable” when a 100-hour pharmacy opened in the town.
100-hour pharmacies represent 10% of market
According to the DH’s analysis, “as of February 2018, there were 1,153 100-hour-per-week pharmacies” in England, “representing 9.8% of all community pharmacies”. Of the nine regions the DH split England into, the north-west has the highest number – comprising 19% of the total.
The DH repeated its claim that “clustering remains, and in some areas there are more pharmacies than required to ensure access to NHS pharmaceutical services” – an allegation it has repeatedly used in the past to justify cuts to pharmacy funding in England.
According to available data on 1,135 of the 100-hour pharmacies, “636 (56%) were identified as being clustered”, the DH added, with more 100-hour pharmacies situated in areas with increased levels of deprivation and poor health.
Currently “the only option…to reduce the costs associated with this extended-hours provision is to close these pharmacies”, which “could negatively impact upon access and equalities”, the DH stressed.
Evidence from 100-hour providers
The DH told C+D this morning (April 20) that evidence for the review was submitted in confidence by current 100-hour providers and so it could not disclose the data used as a basis for its proposals.
The DH will hold a public consultation before any changes are made to the pharmacy regulations, but there is currently no timescale for this to happen, it told C+D.
According to a snapshot poll of 103 respondents on the C+D website, 85% do not think the government should "remove or reduce" the requirement for 100-hour pharmacies to open for 100 hours.
Earlier this week, Xrayser expressed his anger at the DH’s proposals. Read his reaction in full here.