In line with the a highly challenging, rapidly changing environment due to the coronavirus pandemic, community pharmacies will now be allowed to function behind closed doors without the need for contractors to apply for such closed-door working.

The change was announced on Tuesday (Oct 27) by the NHS in an updated Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to help healthcare professionals tailor their response to the pandemic dependent on their respective local or regional situation.

“The working behind closed doors will be permitted up to 2.5 hours a day with opening between 10am-12noon and 02pm-04pm (or 2-6pm for 100 hour pharmacies) required as a minimum,” the update noted.

“During opening hours pharmacies must be open to the public for all their contracted opening hours unless arrangements to change these are in place with the NHS England and NHS Improvement regional team”.

Community pharmacy contractors have been advised to note the information about NHS Test and Trace, which indicates that advice should be sought from the local health protection team if a pharmacy team member tests positive for Covid-19 and there is a risk to the provision of pharmaceutical services.

At times of extreme pandemic pressure pharmacies may…

  • work behind closed doors if this has been agreed in advance with their NHS England and NHS Improvement regional team
  • receive notification via their shared NHSmail account from NHS England and NHS Improvement regional team (in consultation with the local pharmaceutical committee) that the need to apply for these arrangements have been waived with the decision to work behind closed doors at the discretion of the responsible pharmacist

“The impact of a temporary closure on patient care can be mitigated by effective planning in advance of such a situation. The impact on other contractors and general practices in the PCN (primary care network) can be mitigated by ensuring business continuity plans include appropriate information and the key contact details to use in an emergency are shared in advance across the PCN,” the SOP adds.

The undated SOP sets out general principles for the delivery of services during the pandemic and will require local interpretation.

Healthcare professionals are expected to use their clinical judgement when applying this guidance.

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