The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has received more than 50 reports of community pharmacies temporarily closing at short notice in Scotland in a one-week period, it has said.
The PDA said the reports were made through an online system set up in response to “growing concerns” from pharmacists about the impact on patient care when contractors close pharmacies for all or part of a day.
In a statement published on 10 August 2021, the PDA said its reporting system was being tested in Scotland following “a disproportionate number of instances” of temporary pharmacy closures being highlighted by the media in Scotland.
The reported closures included “a mix of full-day and part-day closures and were branches of a number of different contractors”, the statement added.
Pharmacy contractors are required to notify the relevant health board if their pharmacy is unexpectedly closed for more than 30 minutes. However, according to the PDA’s survey system, less than 8% of the people who reported a closure said they believed that all temporary closures were reported to the local NHS Health Board by pharmacy contractors.
On 2 July 2021, NHS Lothian wrote to pharmacy contractors to remind them of their obligations to report closures, following an “escalating situation” regarding the number of sudden closures in 2021.
Stephen McBurney, associate director of pharmacy at NHS Lothian, told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 11 August 2021: “Pharmacies have such a crucial role in providing care in our communities and that is why pharmacy owners are required to deliver the terms and services as set out in the arrangements with NHS [health] boards to ensure that patient care remains the top priority.
“We recently wrote to contractors to remind them of the steps they should take to ensure that any unexpected closure is communicated as widely as possible to ensure patients can continue to access their medicines safely and when required.”
On 13 July 2021 — in response to a written parliamentary question on the number of pharmacy closures as a result of staff shortages — Humza Yousaf, Scottish cabinet secretary for health and social care, said that information on closures was “not held centrally”, and instead highlighted that it was the “the responsibility of territorial health boards to ensure there is adequate provision of NHS pharmaceutical care services”.