A Scottish health board has confirmed that some pharmacy contractors are not reporting their closures to the NHS despite this being a requirement of their contract.
A communication sent to community pharmacies in Greater Glasgow and Clyde confirmed that the NHS became aware of three closures in that area that week, only due to “third parties” notifying them, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said in a statement.
There is no clarity about other unreported closures where no third party notified that NHS health board that week, but three confirmed closures in one health board area, in just week’s period should be significant enough for concern, it said.
This development has undermined the job of the NHS in understanding and addressing the causes of closures, it said.
Earlier this month, PDA introduced an online tool to advise the union of closures. The tool was tested in Scotland.
Of those who used the tool, 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.
The communication sent on August 10, also highlighted the “significant impact on direct patient care and access to medicines” caused by closures in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) area.
It said: “Over the last four or five weeks, a perfect storm of self isolation requirements, positive COVID testing, routine annual leave and the lack of available pharmacists (amongst other things) has caused an escalation to short-notice closures/late opening/early closing incidents within the community pharmacy network in NHS GGC.
“This is now having a significant impact on direct patient care and access to medicines.”
It reminded pharmacy contractors of their duty to provide services in line with their contractual arrangements with the health board, but also accepted that the current pressures may cause contractors to make difficult decisions in terms of service provision.
For the most part, the contractor follows the established procedure in case the service is effected, which allows the Community Pharmacy Development Team (CPDT) to log the event and ensure that relevant healthcare colleagues are informed.
The communication also listed steps of the process to be followed in case a pharmacy has to close outwith normal contracted hours.
The issue of closures is increasingly being discussed on social, print and broadcast media and has become a significant concern for the public, politicians, and taxpayers.
The PDA believes that the consequences for those contractors that breach the NHS contract should be made public. It will damage the reputation of those pharmacy and pharmacists.
The association said that these incidents risk undermining the great work being done by many in the sector to help pharmacy reach its full potential as part of the NHS.
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.