There are growing concerns amongst pharmacists about the consequences for patient care when pharmacy contractors close pharmacies for all or part of a day.

In response to this, an online tool, created by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) for members to identify such incidents, was tested in Scotland.

In the first week of the tool being available, the PDA received more than 50 reports of closures. These were a mix of full day and part-day closures, and were branches of a number of different contractors.

There seem to be a disproportionate number of instances being highlighted by newspapers and on social media in Scotland.

In a recent parliamentary response to a question about the monitoring of pharmacy closures, Scottish Government Health Secretary Hamza Yousef said: “This information is not held centrally. It is the responsibility of territorial Health Boards to ensure there is adequate provision of NHS Pharmaceutical Care Services, working with community pharmacy contractors listed on the Boards Pharmaceutical List.

“The National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 set out the responsibilities for community pharmacy contractors to notify Health Boards when there are instances in which the contractor is unable to provide those NHS services.”

Separately, NHS Tayside and NHS Lothian wrote to contractors on May 14 and on July 2, respectively, reminding them of their obligations to report closures.

However, of those reporting closures to the PDA this week, less than 8 per cent think all temporary closures are reported to the local NHS Health Board by pharmacy contractors, and less than 6 per cent think the local NHS monitors and manages this well.

More than 90 per cent of those reporting closures believe that closures have a significant impact on patients and 75 per cent say that closures happen too frequently in their area.

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