Temporary closures during the COVID-19 outbreak

Temporary closures during the COVID-19 outbreak

April 16, 2020

During the COVID-19 outbreak, contractors may, with good reason, temporarily close a pharmacy. New options for temporary closure are now available under emergency provisions in the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013.

Below are the three most relevant types of temporary closure, and information has been given to advise contractors on how to apply or notify the authorities if they need to close for any of these reasons.

The following table gives a summary of what is required:

Type of temporary closure Notice period NHSE&I agreement  Application/notification form
Temporary closure during an emergency, or temporary change to opening hours 24 hours Yes

Link to form (closure)

Link to form (opening hours)

Temporary suspension of services due to illness or other reasonable cause None No Link to form
Application for temporary relocation during an emergency At least 24 hours (clarification is being sought) Yes Link to form

 

Temporary closure during an emergency, or temporary change opening hours

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has recently confirmed that contractors may use relevant provisions in the terms of service on temporary opening hours and closures during an emergency requiring flexible opening hours (primarily paragraph 27 of schedule 4 of the NHS Regulations), which permit contractors temporarily to close (or change the hours) of a pharmacy.

Contractors must apply to NHSE&I for the temporary flexible provision of pharmacy services – a temporary closure of the pharmacy (or temporary changes to the days or times the pharmacy will be open) – and to do so, should give:

  • 24-hours’ notice of the proposed change or closure to NHSE&I and;
  • the reasons for the request.

NHSE&I will only agree with a contractor’s request if it consider the reasons are adequate.

Having given 24-hours’ notice, the contractor does not need NHSE&I’s permission in advance of the closure, or change so, if NHSE&I does not object to the request, it can be implemented.

If, subsequently, NHSE&I does not approve the request, the pharmacy must re-open or go back to its original opening hours. Additional information on this provision (including examples of potentially adequate reasons to seek temporary closure) was published in an earlier news story.

The emergency period has currently been declared until 1 July, and application forms to temporarily close or make a change to opening hours are linked below:

Temporary closures during an emergency requiring the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services – pharmacies and dispensing appliance contractors.

Temporary opening hours during an emergency requiring the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services – pharmacies and dispensing appliance contractors. 

Temporary suspension of services due to illness or other reasonable cause

A contractor may also close a pharmacy on a temporary basis if prevented from opening by reason of illness or other reasonable cause – for example, staff illness and absence or for the decontamination of the pharmacy.

NHSE&I has indicated that contractors closing temporarily for this reason must:

  • inform NHSE&I of the temporary closure (and any arrangements for continuity of service with other contractors/pharmacies);
  • update the pharmacy NHS 111 Directory of Services (DoS) profile; and
  • update the NHS Website.

NHSE&I is encouraging cooperation between community pharmacies and GP practices in primary care networks, to deliver the best care, and protect and maximise the capabilities of staff across

practices and pharmacies; and is also encouraging local pharmacies to work to maintain continuity of services in the event of temporary closures through ‘buddy’ arrangements, stating:

Particular thought should be given to patients receiving services such as supervised consumption or monitored dosage systems. Consideration can be given to providing daily doses rather than supervised consumption on an individual patient risk assessed basis.

This guidance is included in NHSE&I’s community pharmacy SOP  and PSNC has also provided additional guidance on temporary closures.

Notification of temporary closure is the most appropriate option for a pharmacy that must close at short notice or where a contractor has no option but to close, sometimes immediately (due to illness or other reasonable cause), because NHSE&I permission for the closure is not required. If the procedures are followed, the contractor will not be in breach of the terms of service.

The form required to notify NHSE&I of a closure is linked below:

Notification of unplanned temporary suspension of services

Application for temporary relocation during an emergency

If a contractor needs to move the provision of pharmacy services from the existing pharmacy premises to new pharmacy premises, this is an excepted application, so involves a more detailed application form (regulation 29(1) of the NHS Regulations). NHSE&I may grant such an application for a period of time no longer than the emergency, which currently declared until 1 July 2020. A reason for such an application might be, for example, co-location with a GP hot site treating COVID-19 patients, such that patients of the pharmacy are no longer able to access the pharmacy safely.

The form required to apply for temporary relocation is linked below:

Application for temporary arrangements during an emergency that requires the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services

Contractor action

Please remember if you close temporarily, you must have good reason to do so. Consider using the community pharmacy emergency closure checklist, which has been developed with NHSE&I.

Contractors must also update the DoS and NHS website as appropriate to show any closures or revised opening hours.



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