Community pharmacy owners in England will be required to have a ‘business continuity plan’ for temporary closures as of today, following changes to legislation.

However, it is understood that NHS England will be advising integrated care boards (ICBs) to take a ‘sympathetic approach’ to the change over the next three months.

Changes to the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013 imposed earlier this year, mean that from 31 July 2023, it will become a ‘terms of service’ requirement for each NHS community pharmacy owner to have a business continuity plan for a temporary suspension of service due to illness or another reason beyond their control, and to action this when necessary.

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has issued guidance to help support the change, including a briefing and template plan to guide pharmacy owners through the process.

According to CPE, a business continuity plan for temporary closures must include arrangements for:

  • Notifying your ICB of a temporary suspension, and a likely temporary suspension (in accordance with the approved particulars from NHS England)
  • Updating the NHS England Directory of Services
  • Reducing referrals under directed services that relate to urgent care
  • Notifying your main local GPs and other local contractors of the temporary closure and its anticipated duration
  • Displaying relevant information for patients on the premises (in accordance with the approved particulars), or for distance selling pharmacies displaying relevant information on their website
  • Continuity of care, for example, of patients with booked appointments and those who have supervised administration of medicines.

Today, CPE told The Pharmacist that NHS England will be advising ICBs to take a ‘sympathetic approach’ in the next three months during the transition.

CPE had requested this following the ‘late publication’ of advice and approved particulars, but noted this was also a usual process for any enforcement authority, even where such guidance is published well in advance.

NHS England has this afternoon published the approved particulars – which sets out the minimum information owners must provide when issuing notification of a temporary closure – and a template form for notifying ICBs.

However, CPE said it was still awaiting publication of supporting guidance.