NHS England has said community pharmacies may close for some or all of the bank holiday on 19 September, but must ensure ongoing patient access to primary care services.

In a letter to primary care providers, Dr Ursula Montgomery, director of primary care, NHS England, said she was writing ‘to set out expectations for ensuring there is ongoing access available to NHS primary care services’ on the day of the Queen’s funeral.

She added that pharmacies should work with their local NHS England team and other local pharmacies to ensure that patient need is met, including continuing access to medicines.

Dr Montgomery also highlighted that primary care commissioners and providers should note ‘the likelihood of closures among schools and childcare settings, impacting childcare arrangements’.

She continued: ‘Supermarkets or large stores may also close or operate reduced opening hours impacting in-store pharmacy opening.’

However, she added that ‘primary care professionals and their teams will want to pay their respects’ and that they ‘contractually may be supported to do so with the declaration of the bank holiday’.

Pharmacies in England must be open during their contracted hours, unless these fall on a public or bank holiday, the letter confirmed.

In accordance with the letter,  community pharmacies have been requested to work with their local NHS England team to help plan arrangements for pharmaceutical provision on the day of the funeral.

On its website, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has encouraged contractors to:

  • Consider the needs of their patients, in particular patients who collect controlled drugs in instalments
  • Consider staff availability, which may be impacted by school closures and childcare arrangements
  • Inform their local NHS England team if they are planning to remain open. If NHS England is considering issuing directions requiring a pharmacy to open, it is only likely to do so if the contractor agrees to open, as ‘time is too short for the usual administrative process’
  • If appropriate, liaise with other contractors in the area to try and ensure adequate pharmaceutical services provision
  • Update the Directory of Services and NHS website to ensure that the opening times listed are accurate, with the PSNC providing guidance on how to do this on its website.
  • Inform patients and the public of the nearest open pharmacy.

PSNC said: ‘The basic Terms of Service provision is that contractors are not required to open community pharmacies on Bank Holidays and, therefore, may choose to close for the 19 September, or for the time of the state funeral.

‘The Terms of Service provide that a pharmacy’s usual opening hours for that day will count towards its core contractual hours for the week.’

Pay rates for pharmacists working on bank holidays will depend on individual employment contracts.

In the past, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association has warned contractors against wage theft if paying flat rates on a bank holiday when the employee’s contract states that they are entitled to higher rates for working on a public holiday.

Last week, pharmacy groups shared tributes to Queen Elizabeth II after the UK’s longest-serving monarch passed away aged 96.