Supermarkets urged to include pharmacists in NHS shopping hours

A letter from Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, states that pharmacy staff are “critical key NHS workers” and should be included in special supermarket opening hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outside of Asda and Sainsbury's supermarkets

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this feature article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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Along with an open letter to major supermarkets, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has written to the British Retail Consortium to ask it to ensure pharmacists are included in priority shopping hours

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has written to the major supermarket chains urging them to ensure that pharmacists can access dedicated shopping times for NHS workers. 

It comes as many of the big supermarket chains have begun implementing opening hours for NHS staff, or reserving special sections for NHS workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, signed by Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, welcomes the decision by supermarkets to offer priority shopping hours for NHS staff, and asks the chains to accept the letter as proof that pharmacy staff are providing NHS services.

The letter states that “many pharmacy team members will not have dedicated NHS ID badges” and therefore asks supermarkets to accept the letter as proof of pharmacists’ professional status “as a key worker for the delivery of frontline NHS services”.

“As you will be aware, pharmacy teams are working hard on the front line to support the public during the COVID-19 pandemic,” it says. “Thank you for supporting our profession in coping with the additional demands from COVID-19.”

Commenting on the letter, Gidley said pharmacy staff “are critical key NHS workers on the front line supporting patients and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“The workload and pressures that pharmacy colleagues are facing at this time has increased significantly,” she said. “The opportunity for dedicated priority shopping would be a huge source of support and comfort to pharmacy teams right across the country.”

The RPS has also written to the British Retail Consortium calling on it to ensure that all pharmacy staff are able to access these priority opening hours in supermarkets for NHS staff. 

Tesco currently holds a dedicated hour of shopping for NHS staff on Sunday mornings; Sainsbury’s opens for half an hour each morning solely for NHS workers; and Asda says it ‘prioritises’ NHS staff in its larger stores for an hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

The Pharmaceutical Journal asked supermarkets whether pharmacists would be allowed to shop during these dedicated times.

A spokesperson for Tesco said that while the company recognised the importance of different groups accessing their service, the dedicated hour was currently focused on NHS staff, who would need to bring ID.

The decision to admit community pharmacists would be at the discretion of shop staff, a spokesperson for Sainsbury’s told The Pharmaceutical Journal.

On 24 March 2020, Community Pharmacy Scotland asked for pharmacy staff to be included in NHS retail hours and said the government was planning to issue NHS cards to overcome any problems.


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2020, Vol 304, No 7936;304(7936):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207853

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