The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has extended its online closure reporting tool to the whole of the UK, after suggesting there has been a ‘dramatic increase’ in the number of unscheduled closures across the country.

The tool was initially piloted in Scotland, where members in the country could report instances in which pharmacies had chosen to close rather than agree rates with an available locum.

In its first week, there were 50 reported instances in Scotland, with more than 90% of those reporting the closures saying they believe it had a significant impact on patients.

The PDA said those being reported have currently ‘almost exclusively’ members of the Company Chemists' Association and the largest chains in the country.

The tool will now be extended to the whole of the UK, with the PDA ‘asking all members in the UK to complete the online survey whenever they become aware that a pharmacy has closed temporarily due to no responsible pharmacist’.

Both employed and locum pharmacists are being encouraged to report this information, including where and when these unscheduled closures are happening.

In a statement on its website, the PDA said: ‘It is the responsibility of the NHS to monitor the opening of pharmacies in accordance with the contract, this is centralised by NHS England and devolved to the Health Boards in Scotland and Wales.

‘The NHS needs to be notified about closures, hence contractors are required to advise if they are closed for all or part of their agreed hours.

‘However, the PDA is aware that at least two Health Boards in Scotland, along with Greater Manchester Local Pharmaceutical Committee in England, have recently considered it necessary to remind contractors that they must report closures. This suggests there is some question of whether closures were being properly reported.’

It added: ‘If a community pharmacy employer is failing to meet their contractual arrangement with the NHS, this is an issue of contractual breach between those parties, however where there is any doubt a contractor will report their own closure, others can also report the incident.’

The Company Chemists' Association declined to comment.