a clock face imageJune 1 2018

Thousands of community pharmacies have been shut for an hour or more during contracted hours, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association has revealed. 

It conducted the survey following its members reporting that some pharmacy contractors “are ‘sharing’ a single pharmacist between two pharmacies in certain locations – and at least one of the pharmacies is closed during some of its normal hours of operation.” 

While the regulations permit a pharmacy to close due to reasons beyond the control of the contractor, PDA members “were concerned that some of the pharmacy closures were within the control of the contractor involved,” said the PDA.

The PDA contacted the large pharmacy multiples using Freedom of Information requests to head offices to ask about where pharmacies had closed during normal NHS contracted hours (core and supplementary) and the governance mechanisms each had in place.

It found that among the chains, the average number of closures per pharmacy per year ranged from 0.11 to 3.81, with the average closure duration ranging from 0.81 hours to 1.93 hours. One pharmacy had closed 31 times over a 12-month period.

“The causes of the closures will be multifactorial, but whatever these are, the data appear to demonstrate a lack of resilience and insufficient rigour in the system to ensure the public can always access pharmacies at the time it expects and pays for,” said the PDA

It has called for further analysis into why the closures are happening, to check for common themes. 

“There appears to be little consequence at an organisational level for failing to open to the public during NHS contracted hours. In addition, it appears from our efforts that there may not be any central oversight of national trends relating to pharmacy closures,” it said. “NHS England did not hold, centrally, the data obtained by the PDA.”

PDA announcement      
PDA data on pharmacy closures November 2017