The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has expressed concerns about avoidable pharmacy closures by some contractors which denies patients the access to a pharmacist and pharmacy.

It highlighted cases where contractors seemingly breach their agreement with the NHS and opt to close rather than engage available locums and keep the services going.

To substantiate its point, the association published an anonymous note written by a pharmacist to the NHS, which demonstrates that pharmacy closures have become a regular practice.

“I was working in the XXXXXXXXX pharmacy today (Saturday) when a patient phoned looking for some medication as he had run out and his regular Pharmacy, XXXXXXXXXXXX, was closed.

“According to staff and a quick google search, that pharmacy should have been opened from 9am to 1pm. Unfortunately, this became a recurring theme for the remainder of my day, and I lost count of the times I had to have the same conversation and listen to complaints.

“A patient who receives weekly Diazepam missed his collection from that pharmacy yesterday and found them closed today. He phoned me and I advised he speak to NHS24. He managed to speak to a nurse prescriber who did not believe the pharmacy was closed, as NHS24 was not notified.

“Pharmacies are meant to help reduce pressure on NHS services, but the opposite has resulted. One pharmacy closure resulted in extra calls to NHS24 and avoidable issues for OOH prescribers. In the end I had to complete a supply of Diazepam against an email prescription to upkeep patient care. This is merely one example from many.”

The note further added that the number of closures currently being discussed and reported in Scotland is alarming, and many companies do not report the same to the health board.

Shortage of pharmacists or lack of support staff is often used as a reason to justify such closures.

It also raised doubts about the efforts to source cover in order to provide adequate provision of pharmaceutical services. Companies should be penalised for any breach in contract, it added.

Many contractors in Scotland have been reminded to report unplanned/planned pharmacy closures.

Through the note, the pharmacist, urged the NHS to look into the matter and hoped that companies would prioritise patient care and ensure an adequate level of pharmacy provision in line with health board requirements.

PDA highlighted that several pharmacists faced similar experiences, which increases their workload as they have to care for additional patients.

The issue of avoidable closures is increasingly being discussed on social, print and broadcast media and this could therefore become a significant issue for the public, politicians, and taxpayers, PDA said.

Such cases of unscheduled and un-notified pharmacy closures will damage the reputation of pharmacy and pharmacists. This also risks undermining the great work being done my many in the sector to help pharmacy reach its full potential in the health system.

The PDA called upon employers, and their representative bodies to take this situation seriously and honour the NHS Contract which they have committed to deliver.

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