The NPA is urging the government and NHS England to take a flexible, “common sense” approach to temporary pharmacy closures in the light of the end of emergency provisions (31 March).
The Secretary of State emergency declaration allowing the flexible provision of pharmacy opening hours and closures was first made in March 2020 specifically to address the Covid-19 response.
NPA vice chair, Nick Kaye, said: “There has been a big increase in Covid-19 infections amongst pharmacy staff as well as the general population, exacerbating staff shortages that cannot always be covered at short notice. My own pharmacy is only one of many to be struggling to obtain cover.
“We need to retain the common sense option to close if we can’t operate the pharmacy safely due to staff shortages. No pharmacist and certainly no independent pharmacist wants to let their community down by closing unnecessarily. But neither should we be forced to offer patients a substandard and potentially unsafe service due to inadequate staffing.”
“DHSC indicated that should there be a further wave of the pandemic, a new declaration of emergency would be considered. I think that’s the position we are in right now. Meanwhile, the NPA has asked NHS England to take a pragmatic view in terms of enforcement, recognising the very real workforce challenges pertaining at this time.”
The emergency provisions mean that contractors have been allowed to make temporary changes to opening hours or temporary closures where adequate reasons have been provided to NHS England. Regulations from 2013 continue to provide for “temporary arrangements during emergencies or because of circumstances beyond the control of NHS chemists”.