The PDA has raised concerns over the ‘deliberate breaches’ of the NHS contract by some community pharmacy businesses, saying that it may cause harm to patients and damage the reputation of the profession.

The organization said concerned pharmacists have revealed to them that some businesses are now explicitly saying that if locums will not agree to work for less than a so-called ‘maximum’ hourly rate, the business will close the pharmacy for either part of, or the whole day.

Some of these full or part-day closures are being communicated significantly in advance of the actual day, it added.

The union further alleged that several pharmacy businesses seem to have simultaneously implemented identical so-called ‘maximum rates’ in what could be an anti-competitive behaviour.

The PDA noted that community pharmacy businesses have a strict obligation to honour the NHS contract to communities so that patients can readily access information, pharmaceutical services and medicines.

“If a pharmacy closes claiming there was no pharmacist available, when in fact a locum could have been engaged, that can only be a deliberate choice to breach the NHS contract and deny communities and patients the access to which they are entitled,” it said.

The union pointed out that rates paid to locums are just one of the costs of operating a pharmacy, adding that there are no limits placed on dividends paid to shareholders or for executive pay at large pharmacy businesses.

It said locums should be able to negotiate their own rates in a free market, subject to market forces of supply and demand.

The PDA also revealed that majority of itsmembers who have recently raised these concerns are not locums, but are pharmacists employed by these companies questioning the ethics of such an approach by their employers, and concerned for the impact on patients.

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