The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has drawn up guidelines on how pharmacies should handle short-term emergency closures.

This comes amid recent reports of pharmacies having to close for short periods because of staff shortages, Covid-related absences and the recruitment of community pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs)

PSNC advised in a document, published on 5 August, that it is important for pharmacy contractors to take steps to ensure patients are able to access their prescriptions before they leave the premises. 

It outlined that much can be done in advance by having a business continuity plan in place. This should include contact details of wholesale suppliers, an agreement with a ‘buddy’ pharmacy that will be able to pick up the work of the closed pharmacy, a handover file if a locum takes over, and up-to-date Smartcards for all staff that could be used elsewhere so they can access relevant clinical and personal information.

Once the pharmacy is closed, it is vital that clear notices should be displayed advising patients of how and where they can access their medication, PSNC said. The NHS England regional office should be advised of the closure and any buddying arrangement put in place.

Other bodies and organisations that should be warned of the closure include wholesale companies and suppliers, the Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), and PMR supplier.

The guidelines follow on from the concern voiced last month in a joint statement to the chair of the health and social care committee chair, Jeremy Hunt about the workforce challenges being experienced by community pharmacies. 

The statement signed by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), National Pharmacy Association and PSNC said: 'Pharmacies of all sizes are struggling and worried about both the availability of pharmacists, and about rapidly-inflating locum rates. Both of these could limit pharmacies’ ability to reach their full potential to both help patients and support the wider NHS.'