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DH rolls back 100-hour pharmacies' opening obligations by over a quarter

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DH rolls back 100-hour pharmacies' opening obligations by over a quarter

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced “divisive” regulatory changes that will allow 100-hour pharmacies to reduce their core hours by more than a quarter, with no similar provisions made for those with fewer contracted hours.

Yesterday (April 27) the Government laid regulations that add to and amend the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013, in response to the rise in temporary pharmacy closures and “other related pressures” according to a PSNC briefing.

The new regulations, which come into effect on May 25, allow 100-hour pharmacies to reduce their core hours to no less than 72 hours a week through a ‘notification’ process with the local Integrated Care Board, with the stipulation that they must maintain any existing provision between 5pm and 9pm from Monday to Saturday, and between 11am and 4pm on Sunday.

Other changes to the Terms of Service include a notification procedure allowing all pharmacies to introduce or change rest breaks through changing their opening hours; PSNC had sought for contractors to be allowed to deduct rest breaks from core opening hours, but this was refused. Rest breaks may be no longer than one hour, but more than one break per day is permitted. They must take place at least three hours after opening and three hours before closing.

There is also a new provision allowing ICBs to introduce ‘local hours plans’ across some or all of an ICB region if they believe there are significant issues preventing pharmacies opening for all their contracted hours. Contractors can choose whether or not to agree to amended hours proposed by an ICB, but they may not apply for planned temporary closures or coordinate closures with other businesses – another PSNC request that was rejected by Government.

PSNC said that while the change to 100-hour rules would help those businesses, it will do nothing to help other contractors, including 40-hour pharmacies – which comprise roughly 90 per cent of the sector.

PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said: “The regulatory changes that are being introduced are divisive. While the allowance to change core hours may bring some small relief to contractors of 100-hour pharmacies, PSNC was clear that any change like this needed to be matched with provisions for all other contractors who are facing the same pressures.  We believe that it is unwise for the NHS to interfere with the level playing field for contractors in such a crushing economic climate.  

“PSNC put forward more than 30 proposals for wider regulatory easements to help relieve the pressure on contractors: the package that has been arrived at does not go nearly far enough to recognise the severity of these pressures. We can see no excuse for not making more impactful changes that would make a real difference to hard pressed contractors.”

The news of the regulation changes was met with dismay by some pharmacists. Dorset contractor Mike Hewitson tweeted: “Removing the 100 hour requirement is disgusting. Its designed to take pressure off DHSC/NHSE by retaining some element of extended hours.”

Leeds pharmacist Adeel Sarwar said it would “undermine the consolidation legislation introduced to reduce clusters”.

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