Pharmacists are being asked to switch pharmacies during the day

The PDA is receiving a growing number of queries from members who report being pressurised by pharmacy multiple employers to close the branch they are working in part way through the opening hours and travel to open another branch later.

Mon 5th July 2021 The PDA

Pharmacists are reporting an increasing trend where community pharmacy employers ask them to move between pharmacies during the day.  The PDA have received reports of this happening mainly in Scotland, but it is clear such occurrences are not limited to that country and involve several major pharmacy multiples.

The PDA champions the reputation of the sector, and during the pandemic, politicians and the public have become increasingly aware of the benefit of having a qualified health professional in heart of the local community, able to provide NHS services. However, frequent unplanned closures will be disruptive for patients and may damage the reputation of community pharmacy. Such an arrangement also increases the overall amount of time pharmacies are closed, as both branches would need to be closed while a Responsible Pharmacist (RP) moves between them.

The PDA is concerned that one pharmacist travelling between two pharmacies during the day increases risk due to reduced patient access to pharmacy services whilst unfamiliar workplaces, prescription backlogs and impatient customers act as distractions to already pressurised pharmacy teams.

The PDA has issued the following general guidance:

  • The professional decision to close one pharmacy and travel to open another is for the RP to make; pharmacists should not be pressurised by local management into switching branches.
  • The PDA will support members who make an informed professional decision that the risk to patients by closing their current pharmacy is greater than opening another one.
  • A registered pharmacy cannot lawfully operate in the absence of an RP. As the RP signs out of one branch all regulated activity must cease. Similarly, no activity can begin at another pharmacy until the RP has signed in there.
  • Should the RP decide that there are genuinely exceptional circumstances, and agree to close a branch in order to open another, they must still take a break. Hence, the time taken to close one pharmacy, travel to another and prepare the second branch for opening is working time, and must be paid.
  • Any breach of the NHS contract by early closure must be reported to the local NHS Team.
  • It is inappropriate to compromise patient care due to an unwillingness of a contractor to pay market rates to secure another pharmacist.

Locums are readily available

The PDA represents employed and locum pharmacists and is regularly informed that locums have been available to work in areas with pharmacy closures, but the employer still decides to close for all or part of the day rather than engage a locum. Operating in this way compromises patient care and is in breach of the pharmacy NHS contract, yet seems to be becoming the norm in some areas.

Reporting unnecessary closures

If a community pharmacy employer is failing to meet their contractual arrangement with the NHS, this is an issue of contractual breach between those parties.

In response to requests from pharmacists, the PDA has created a form to assist such reporting which can be viewed here. This form is for England, however the principles apply everywhere.  An improved UK-wide process is currently being developed.

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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