The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has published an open letter demanding urgent action to prevent what it described as ‘unnecessary’ pharmacy closures.

It expressed ‘grave concerns’ about patient safety and the impact of ‘unnecessary full or part-day closures throughout the UK by some of the large multiple operators’.

The PDA also claimed to have evidence that some operators had cancelled locum pharmacist shifts if they did not accept attempts to reduce pre-agreed rates but were blaming staff shortages when communicating this to the public.

Mark Koziol, PDA chairman, said operators claiming shortages were to blame for closures is ‘clearly untrue’ as the closures ‘appear to be caused by commercial considerations’.

Criticising the lack of action being taken by government and regulators, he said: ‘Those charged with the task of regulating to ensure patient safety appear to have taken the view that this is a contractual matter and not one that demonstrates a failure in the required standards of professional conduct.’

‘This lack of control by the overall system allows some large pharmacy businesses to choose, with impunity, to restrict patients’ access to NHS funded services and cause harm to patients rather than engage pharmacists appropriately.

‘This does not just deny communities access to a pharmacy and increase the demands on other parts of the health system, but also places individual patients at risk if they cannot access medicines, services, and advice.’

He added that, to the organisation’s knowledge, no companies or superintendents had faced financial penalties or professional regulatory consequences for ‘breaches of required professional standards’.

The letter concluded by calling the addressees to take ‘urgent and effective action’ on the issue to ‘protect patients by ensuring that essential community pharmacy services are provided safely and consistently’.

This comes after the PDA said Government's hub and spoke dispensing proposals show a 'fundamental lack of understanding of the role of pharmacists’ in safe and appropriate dispensing.