The NHS England and Improvement has announced the emergency provisions introduced during pandemic to provide flexible opening hours for pharmacy contractors end today.
The flexibilities were enacted in March 2020 when changes to the Pharmaceutical Services (Advanced and Enhanced Services and Emergency Declaration) Directions 2020 were made following a declaration of emergency at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since March 2020, the flexibilities have permitted temporary opening hours and closures during a specified period due to a genuine Covid-19 related emergency. NHS England and Improvement has advised pharmacy contractors that the emergency declaration will not be extended further and will expire on 31 March 2022.
Pharmacy contractors will therefore no longer have the option to close pharmacies within their agreed contracted hours with the NHS.
These measures were rightly introduced for extreme circumstances during the height of the early Covid-19 pandemic. However, the PDA also heard concerns from pharmacists during that period that some employers approached safety regulations inappropriately and were asking pharmacists to break the law.
Consequently, the GPhC had to issue a reminder to businesses about the critical need for a responsible pharmacist to maintain safety in each pharmacy.
“The end of these temporary regulations should leave pharmacy businesses in no doubt about their obligations to deliver the pharmaceutical services that they have committed to provide,” said PDA.
On the ending of emergency provision of pharmacy opening hours, CCA commented: “We recognise that the Covid protocol allowing the flexible provision of pharmacy opening hours is coming to an end. However, we still have serious concerns of staffing shortages in community pharmacy which are forcing pharmacy teams to make the difficult decision of altering working hours to adhere to legislation.”
“We urge NHS England to work with us and the sector to coordinate a comprehensive workforce plan and ensure patients can receive the care from community pharmacies that they have become accustomed to during the pandemic.”