Public debate around pharmacy closures is “undermining public confidence” in the sector, Clare Morrison, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) director for Scotland, has warned.
Writing in the political and current affairs magazine Holyrood on 10 October 2022, Morrison called for a “way forward” for the profession “that ensures patients benefit consistently from high quality, person-centred, adequately staffed, safe pharmacy services”.
She wrote the debate around pharmacy closures “could damage the NHS Scotland messaging on using pharmacy services first for self-care, which is unhelpful given the looming winter pressures facing the NHS”.
In July 2022, four health boards in Scotland told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they were accepting requests from some community pharmacies to close or offer a reduced service on Saturdays, owing to staffing issues.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association called on Humza Yousaf, Scottish cabinet secretary for health and social care, in August 2022, to take “necessary action” to protect patients by stopping businesses making decisions to close community pharmacies temporarily.
Morrison noted that the pharmacy sector is “reporting unprecedented levels of burnout”, but said the issue could not be attributed solely to workforce shortages.
“Our workforce wellbeing survey identified issues including pharmacists’ inability to take rest breaks which are essential for both patient safety and staff welfare; unsafe staffing levels; a lack of access to training and development; inflexible working arrangements due to fixed pharmacy opening hours; and an unsupportive culture,” she wrote.
“We encourage everyone engaged in the debate on pharmacy closures to consider the complexity of these challenges, so that solutions developed are well-considered, comprehensive, and ultimately lead to sustainable delivery of pharmacy services and improve patient care.”
Morrison said fair remuneration and winter plans “to temporarily prioritise core pharmacy activities to maintain the prescribing and supply of medicines for patients would be a great start”.
Adam Osprey, policy and development pharmacist at Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), said in a comment to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 21 October 2022, that community pharmacies continue to experience “an immense, constant pressure which has been exacerbated by significant workforce challenges”.
“These challenges are indeed complex, but the impact of simply not having enough employed resource to meet demand in community, primary care and hospital practice cannot be understated as a contributing factor to burnout and service interruption,” he said.
“We agree with RPS Scotland in that appropriate remuneration is essential to enabling a viable and stable community pharmacy network, particularly against the backdrop of steeply rising costs for owners.
“We also agree that a clear winter plan that prioritises key deliverables is required in the face of what is predicted to be an extremely challenging period for the health service at large.”
Osprey added that CPS has “already [started] engaging with stakeholders on winter planning to ensure a pragmatic approach is taken”.