On Sunday 22 March 2020 the PSNC released details of a new agreement on NHS pharmacy opening hours as well as an SOP for use in the pharmacy to help deal with COVID-19.

I have received a lot of enquiries on the same point here and will update on opening hours first and provide more details later.

All pharmacies will be expected, on every day they have contracted opening hours, to be open to the public between 10am and 12 noon and 2pm and 4pm as a minimum (if these are contracted hours).

100 hours pharmacies  are being treated the same way and should be open from 10am–12pm and 2pm–6pm as a minimum -but 100 hour pharmacies should note that this only applies to days when they have contracted hours that cover those times. So if your 100 hour pharmacy does not normally open on Sunday, or does not normally open from 2pm to 6pm on a day then you are not required to start opening those times now.

There may be some confusion as the PSNC statement says that pharmacies can close for "up to 2.5 hours", but if pharmacies apply the minimum hours listed above then this would be more than 2.5 hours for most pharmacies. We are seeking clarification from the PSNC on this. UPDATE - I have spoken with the PSNC and they are trying to agree with NHSE that anyone who operates for at least the minimum hours will not have to notify NHSE about their closure. At present the thinking is that any closure of more than 2.5 hours in total should be notified when it is practical to do so (which is in line with the current Regulations)

The PSNC wording is shown below and the SOP their webpage can be accessed by clicking here.

Opening hours flexibility

Specifically:

• If under significant pressure, at the discretion of the responsible pharmacist, pharmacies may close their doors to the public for up to 2.5 hours a day, including lunch.
• Community pharmacies are expected to be open to the public between 10am-12 noon and 2pm-4pm as a minimum (if these are contracted core or supplementary hours).
• Similarly, 100 hours pharmacies should be open from 10am–12pm and 2pm–6pm as a minimum.

A sign on the door must give information about how to contact the pharmacy if urgent help is needed.

Temporary closures

NHSE&I has also stated that for temporary closures (not closed-door working), for instance where not enough staff are available to work, NHSE&I must be informed immediately. The pharmacy NHS 111 Directory of Services (DoS) profile must be updated, as must the NHS Website.

NHSE&I is encouraging cooperation between community pharmacies and GP practices in primary care networks, to deliver the best care, and protect and maximise the capabilities of staff across practices and pharmacies.

NHSE&I also encourages local pharmacies to work to maintain continuity of services in the event of temporary closures through ‘buddy’ arrangements, stating:

Particular thought should be given to patients receiving services such as supervised consumption or monitored dosage systems. Consideration can be given to providing daily doses rather than supervised consumption on an individual patient risk assessed basis.

The new guidance from NHSE&I is included in the pharmacy SOP updated today. Read the SOP