Any action that pharmacies take to raise awareness of the financial crisis facing the sector should put patient and staff safety first, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has said.

This comes as the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) called for any action within the sector to safeguard patient safety and protect the autonomy of responsible pharmacists, as well as employee and locum pharmacists.

On Friday, former NPA vice-chair and current PDA head of pharmacy, Jay Badenhorst, published a letter to the chair and chief executive of the NPA, stressing that the PDA ‘believes community pharmacy funding needs to be increased’.

But he raised concerns that the actions proposed by the NPA on its ‘Day of Action’ on 20 June, such as turning off the lights, ‘could potentially disrupt the safe and effective operation of the pharmacy’.

‘This could have severe implications, including reduced medicines, appliances, and label visibility. Furthermore, the inability to see patients’ details clearly when handing out medication could lead to dire consequences for patients and the Responsible Pharmacist on duty.

‘Patients trying to navigate the public area of the pharmacy in suboptimal lighting conditions could also be at greater risk of trips and falls,’ Mr Badenhorst said.

He also stressed that ‘Whilst the pharmacy proprietor could decide to participate in the day of action, the RP [responsible pharmacist] must be free to exercise their professional judgment in the pharmacy and should not be influenced by the proprietor or others employed by them.’

Mr Badenhorst also called for the choice of locums and employee pharmacists of whether or not to participate in the action to be respected.

And he said that employee and locum pharmacists should still be paid for any working time already contracted for that day, even if the action meant the pharmacy was closed for a period.

An NPA spokesperson told The Pharmacist today that it had been in touch with the PDA about the issues raised.

They said they ‘absolutely agree that anything pharmacies do to raise the profile of the financial crisis in pharmacies should put patient and staff safety first.’

And they added that they have 'been clear that we don’t recommend stopping services’.

‘We are keen that PDA members feel able to join this action because it’s in all our interests to campaign for a thriving pharmacy sector. We are due to have further discussions with the PDA in the next few days and hope to work with them to allay any concerns their members might have,’ the NPA spokesperson added.