Some LloydsPharmacy branches located in Sainsbury’s stores will have their hours temporarily reduced for nearly three months, owing to “pharmacist shortages”, an internal document has said.
The document, presented as a script to be read out to managers and pharmacists and posted on social media on 2 November 2021, said the trading hours of those pharmacies located in the supermarket chain on 100-hour contracts will “move their standard trading day to 09:00–21:00 as standard” for Mondays through Saturdays, with Sunday trading hours remaining the same.
This could be a reduction of four hours per day in opening hours in some of the 91 LloydsPharmacy branches in Sainsbury’s stores in England, according to the most recent pharmaceutical list held by NHS England and provided to The Pharmaceutical Journal under the Freedom of Information Act on 22 October 2021.
The script suggests that the reduced hours could also result in a pay cut for some employees as contracted hours will also decrease.
The multiple’s move to cut its opening hours follows the inclusion of pharmacists in the government’s list of occupations facing a national shortage, and after recent workforce surveys in both England and Wales have shown that vacancy rates for community pharmacist positions are as high as one in five in some areas.
“Our organisation is not immune to these challenges, but we remain resolute to ensure our longer-term plans address these challenges,” the document said, adding that the change in hours is part of ensuring “that the current limited workforce is best utilised in the right places to provide the best care for all”.
“Therefore, we have made the decision to reduce the trading hours of our LloydsPharmacy in Sainsbury’s pharmacies who operate 100-hour contracts.”
It added that the change is being enacted through “an emergency declaration of flexible provision of pharmaceutical services” and will take effect between 8 November 2021 and 29 January 2022.
In September 2021, NHS England extended its provision to allow pharmacy contractors to make temporary changes to opening hours or temporary closures, where NHS England had been informed.
The provisions were first introduced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help contractors cope with demand.
The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said in a statement on 4 November 2021 that it had received confirmation that “there is no requirement for individual pharmacists to change their working pattern and in fact the hours reduction may allow members in LloydsPharmacy stores more time to keep on top of workload or training whilst the pharmacy remains closed”.
“If pharmacists at Lloyds come under local pressure to change their contracted hours and working patterns against their wishes they should contact the PDA for individual advice,” it added.
Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary at the PDA Union, said: “Reduced access to pharmacies is never better for patients, however, it is widely reported that there are difficulties in resourcing some pharmacies in the network.
“We ensure senior decision makers in the company are aware of the impact on the frontline and we want to work positively with Lloyds management to help fix the challenges for the longer term. In the meantime, we understand the rationale behind theses temporary changes and are pleased to hear that the company want to achieve this without imposing changes to the working patterns of pharmacists or cutting hours,” he added.
In Scotland, 50 pharmacies were reported to have closed unexpectedly — but temporarily — in one week in August 2021, which Alison Strath, chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, told The Pharmaceutical Journal had been owing to a stretched workforce.
“In terms of pharmacy closures, I don’t think Scotland is very different to other parts of the UK, speaking to my chief pharmaceutical officer colleagues,” she said. “The workforce has been quite stretched and people are having to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19 regulations.”
A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy confirmed that the document was “an internal communication”, but that they did not have anything more information to add about the plans.
“As you’ll appreciate, this relates to the ongoing recruitment challenges faced by all community pharmacies, and the very real shortage of pharmacists in certain areas,” said the spokesperson.
- This article was updated on 5 November 2021 to include a statement from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association.