COVID-19 Network Resilience

Maintaining access to pharmacy services – opening hours and temporary closures (September 2021)

The declaration of an emergency enabling the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services, which was introduced to help maintain pharmacy services during the COVID-19 outbreak, has been extended to 31st January 2022. 

This means that contractors continue to be able to make temporary changes to opening hours or temporary closures where, first, adequate reasons for these changes have been provided to NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I), second, NHSE&I has been given 24 hours’ notice of these changes and, third, NHSE&I has agreed these changes or has not objected to them.

After contractors have given 24 hours’ notice, and in the absence of a response from NHSE&I, they may start the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services. However, contractors must return to normal provision of services (core and supplementary opening hours) if their request is subsequently refused by NHSE&I.

This ‘emergency provision’, enables the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services during an emergency – the threatened or actual serious damage to human welfare caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Secretary of State’s emergency declaration remains in force, and with NHSE&I’s agreement or acceptance, the ‘emergency provision’ can be used for short term relief in exceptional circumstances where a contractor is unable to engage a (locum) pharmacist and thus unable to open the pharmacy for its contractual hours, despite best endeavours to do so.

NHSE&I is more likely to accept a contractor’s application for temporary opening hours or a temporary closure if it is of short duration, where the application is in response to circumstances beyond the contractor’s control, and where the pharmacy includes details of the actions it has taken, and is continuing to take, as part of their business continuity plan.

PCC has issued a helpful briefing on the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services during the current pandemic, which can be found here.

Various dispensations and options for closed door working and the flexible provision of hours or services are in place in accordance with the emergency provisions of the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Service) Regulations 2013. NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) may also require community pharmacies to open as it did for some Bank Holidays in 2020.

Maintaining access to pharmacy services – opening hours and temporary closures (July 2021)

Following the move of England to step 4 of the Government’s COVID-19 response on Monday (19th July 2021), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) issued a letter to all primary care contractors outlining their continuing expectations across primary care in relation to access, infection prevention and control, and continuing contractual arrangements.

For community pharmacy, the expectation is that contractors will fulfil all aspects of their terms of service for 2021/22.

Download a copy of the letter

Withdrawal of COVID-19 SOP

The letter also confirms that the Community pharmacy in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19) (Version 4) standard operating procedure (SOP) that has been in place since March 2020 was withdrawn on 19th July 2021.

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