COVID-19 Easter Opening Hours for Pharmacies

COVID-19 Easter Opening Hours for Pharmacies

April 4, 2020

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has announced that it will require all community pharmacies in England to open from 2pm to 5pm on 10 April 2020 (Good Friday) and 13 April 2020 (Easter Monday).

The requirement is being made under the National Health Service (Amendments Relating to the Provision of Primary Care Services During a Pandemic etc.) Regulations 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its COVID-19 Primary Care Bulletin email last night, NHSE&I said that:

  • Any pharmacies already planning to open for longer hours should do so;
  • If a pharmacy is unable to open for reasons beyond the control of the contractor they should notify their NHSE&I regional office in the usual way and update the NHS 111 DoS;
  • Community pharmacies in areas where there is minimal demand due to the Government’s social distancing policy (eg in large shopping centres) should seek exemption from their NHSE&I regional team; and
  • Pharmacies should make sure NHS website profiles include correct opening hours to support patient access.

Contractors will be able to claim a payment for these opening hours. Monies will come from over and above the global sum, but NHSE&I has said funding will not reflect bank or public holiday premiums – PSNC is arguing that it must do so.

The decision to require all pharmacies to open has been made unilaterally by NHSE&I who say that access to pharmaceutical services will be needed on these day to support GPs who will open for business as usual on Good Friday and Easter Monday as part of the overall NHS response to the pandemic.

PSNC argued against this requirement for all pharmacies to open on the grounds that there will already be sufficient numbers of pharmacies open under usual Bank Holiday arrangements. Our understanding is that between a third and a quarter of the network is open on those two days already and some local NHSE&I teams have already made additional provision for local needs.

NHSE&I regional teams have been given power to stand down pharmacies in local areas where there is minimal demand due to the Government’s social distancing policy (e.g. large shopping malls) so contractors and LPCs are encouraged to discuss with local regional teams exactly how this will be interpreted.

PSNC, along with the CCA, NPA and AIM, had also asked NHSE&I to ensure that any decision on this was based on real evidence of the additional need – we have not seen any such evidence.

PSNC Chief Executive Simon Dukes said:

“This decision by NHSE&I does not represent a negotiated position – PSNC’s view is that the planned openings over the Bank Holidays would have been sufficient to meet patients’ needs and we have seen no evidence to the contrary. However, NHSE&I now have the power to demand that pharmacies open at any time and they are choosing to exercise that power.

Community pharmacies will always step up to help primary care colleagues, but while many GPs are now operating on a permanently closed-door basis, that is not an option for pharmacy. Our teams have been flat out over the past three weeks dealing with unprecedented demand – they desperately needed this break.

Over this weekend we will be putting a case to NHSE&I for fair funding to cover contractors’ costs for these opening hours. Any decision to treat the Bank Holidays as normal days fails to recognise the legal responsibilities that employers have to pay enhanced rates for work on these days, and we are trying to change their minds on this.

We have made clear to NHSE&I just how disruptive making a decision like this on less than a week’s notice is for businesses, pharmacy teams, and their own families who also rely on them. Pharmacy teams had been holding on for this break and we are concerned that there may be an increase in temporary closures now that contractors have to manage workload pressures and staff exhaustion without the Easter break.”

 



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