COVID-19 Easter Opening Update: Clarification on Local Flexibility

COVID-19 Easter Opening Update: Clarification on Local Flexibility

April 7, 2020

Further to its decision that all community pharmacies in England must open for three fixed hours on both April 10 (Good Friday) and April 13 (Easter Monday), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has clarified the ability of its Regional teams to operate some local flexibility.

In particular, as announced on Saturday, pharmacies can apply for an exemption to the requirement to open where there is minimal demand due to Government’s social distancing policy.

In its COVID-19 Primary Care Bulletin email tonight (April 7), NHSE&I has clarified that regional teams would consider exceptions based on the needs of patients in the areas served and in view of the challenges for pharmacy staff.

Community pharmacies who believe there is no need for them to open on April 10 or 13 should seek an exemption from their NHSE&I regional team – LPCs may be able to support this. Reasons why there may be reduced patient need may include, for example, the closure of local GP practices or proximity of other local pharmacies who will be open. Contractors could also seek flexibility on the three hours in which they must be open (which has been set by NHSE&I nationally as 2pm to 5pm), for example if they are already due to be open in the morning to meet local need.

PSNC has confirmed that applications for exemptions must be made by contractors.

The announcement also stated that any pharmacy that was planning to open longer hours (in addition to the 2pm-5pm) should still do so to support access for patients through the day. Accordingly, any existing directions to open and agreed funding should stay in place, unless otherwise agreed by contractors and NHSE&I regional teams.

If a pharmacy is unable to open for reasons beyond the control of the contractor between 2pm and 5pm on April 10 or 13 they should notify their NHSE&I regional office, update the NHS 111 DoS and ensure their NHS website entry is correct.

NHSE&I has committed to provide funding for contractors for the Easter Bank Holiday openings but said last week that it would not apply Bank Holiday premiums. PSNC is continuing to try to change their view on this and to negotiate a reasonable funding rate that does take into account those premiums.

This clarification of increased flexibility is welcomed by PSNC and follows ongoing discussion with NHSE&I since the announcement was made on Friday.

Simon Dukes, PSNC Chief Executive, said:

“Community pharmacy contractors have understandably been frustrated by the late notice of this blanket requirement for them to open over the Easter Bank Holidays. Pharmacies have been working to resolve the consequent logistical challenges this week, and we welcome the confirmation of the allowed local flexibility by NHSE&I today. We look forward to working with NHSE&I to get an earlier resolution for the May Bank Holidays.

We are now in negotiations about funding for the Easter Bank Holiday openings. We are seeking to persuade NHSE&I officials that contractors must be reasonably funded for the time, reflecting Bank Holiday premiums, and we will make an announcement on this as soon as we have news.

Over the Easter Bank Holidays PSNC will be open for business to support contractors as usual.”

Background Information

NHSE&I has required 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 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 on April 3, 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 to 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.

The decision to require all pharmacies to open was 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.

Note: Most contractors should not need to update DoS with Easter 2020 hours but read more about DoS and Easter 2020 opening hours at the DoS webpage.



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