Maintaining access to pharmacy services – opening hours and temporary closures

Maintaining access to pharmacy services – opening hours and temporary closures

This page contains advice on maintaining access to pharmacy services in relation to pharmacy opening hours and temporary closures.

Page last updated: 19th December 2021

Earlier in the COVID-19 outbreak, legislation was amended to allow the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to declare an emergency (the threatened or actual serious damage to human welfare caused by the COVID-19 pandemic), which would allow the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services, to help maintain pharmacy services during the pandemic

The declaration of an emergency is currently in force until 31st January 2022. 

This means contractors can make temporary changes to opening hours or temporary closures where:

  1. Adequate reasons for these changes have been provided to NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I); and
  2. NHSE&I have been given 24 hours’ notice of these changes; and
  3. NHSE&I have agreed these changes or have not objected to them.

After contractors have given 24 hours’ notice, and in the absence of a response from NHSE&I, they may start the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services.

However, contractors must return to normal provision of services (core and supplementary opening hours) if their request is subsequently refused by NHSE&I.

The ‘emergency provision’ can be used for short term relief in exceptional circumstances where a contractor is unable to engage a (locum) pharmacist and thus unable to open the pharmacy for its contractual hours, despite best endeavours to do so.

NHSE&I is more likely to accept a contractor’s application for temporary opening hours or a temporary closure if:

  1. It is of short duration;
  2. Where the application is in response to circumstances beyond the contractor’s control; and
  3. Where the pharmacy includes details of the actions it has taken, and is continuing to take, as part of their business continuity plan.

Read the PCC briefing on the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services

Emergency closure checklist for community pharmacy

This briefing for pharmacy contractors explains the contractual, IT and other actions needed if a pharmacy may be faced with a risk of a short-term closure because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or for another reason.

PSNC Briefing 019/20: Emergency closure checklist for community pharmacy

For any queries related to information on this page, please email

COVID-19 update – Holiday Openings: Boxing Day and New Year’s Day 

Recognising the current challenges being experienced by pharmacies and the contribution of the pharmacy workforce to the COVID-19 vaccination programme, PSNC has reached agreement with NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care on a number of measures to help ease the immediate pressures on community pharmacies. 

Separately, PSNC has also been seeking flexibility from NHSE&I about holiday openings this year, but NHSE&I have been keen to ensure that pharmacies remain open for their contracted hours during the holiday period given the ongoing impact of the COVID booster campaign on primary care, and to maintain patient access.

NHSE&I has informed PSNC that in specific areas, a number of contractors are seeking to close due to pandemic and workforce pressures on two specific days, Boxing Day (Sunday 26th December 2021) and New Year’s Day (Saturday 1st January 2022). These two days are not Bank Holidays this year, but normal contractual days.

NHSE&I have agreed that contractors in an area may agree with NHSE&I a pharmacy opening plan for pharmacies in that area, which ensures adequate patient access to pharmaceutical services; recognising the pressures contractors are under. This applies to Boxing Day and New Year’s Day only. Applications for such plans will be considered by NHSE&I regional teams, which will be keen to ensure fairness between contractors. They are intended for specific areas where there are known difficulties finding a pharmacist for the pharmacy, such as certain rural areas, not as a general invitation to all contractors. 

There is no agreed definition of an area, so in theory this could allow an arrangement between two pharmacies agreed by the NHSE&I regional team, or an arrangement between many pharmacies agreed by the NHSE&I regional team.  

Read the announcement

Return to the main COVID-19 hub page


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