During the current Coronavirus pandemic, NHS England almost completely stopped processing new pharmacy applications. In addition, where applications had been approved, pharmacists struggled to open their new premises within the required time limits. These time limits are typically 6 months from the date of approval and a discretionary 3 month period can be added to that time.

We had a number of pharmacists contact us to say that NHSE had allowed them extra time that was not permitted under the Regulations, whilst other received letters telling them that they had run out of time to open and no further extension would be permitted. The PSNC were working behind the scenes to get changes approved to the Regulations, but unfortunately the minor suggested changes became linked with other proposed changes and have only just been made law as of Monday 14 September 2020.

The PSNC provided the following summary of the changes;

  • Where a six month opening period expires after the Amendment Regulations come into force, this automatically extends to 12 months (amendment to paragraph 34(4)(b)).
  • Where a three month discretionary extension expires after the Amendment Regulations come into force, this is automatically extended so that it ends 6 months after the Amendment Regulations come into force.
  • Where a three month discretionary extension expires in the six months before the Amendment Regulations came into force. This extension is revived and the period automatically extended to 6 months after the Amendment Regulations come into force.

In other words,

  • If you are currently working to open a pharmacy but have not yet requested a 3 month extension to that deadline then you have been given an additonal 6 months to open
  • If you are currently working to open a pharmacy and have been given a 3 month extension to that deadline that has not yet expired then you have been given an additonal 6 months to open FROM 14 SEPTEMBER 2020, IE UNTIL 14 MARCH 2021
  • If you had a 3 month extension approved, but failed to open on time and the 3 months expired in the last 6 months THEN YOU RECEIVE A FURTHER 6 MONTHS FROM 14 SEPTEMBER 2020 IN WHICH TO OPEN IE UNTIL 14 MARCH 2021

These changes may not affect many pharmacy contractors, but for some they are really important. We would hope that NHSE will be contacting any pharmacy contractor who saw their permission lapse in the last 6 months, but in reality they are unlikely to do so. In fact, some contractors will have been notified that they can no longer open and will need to re-apply. All that has changed now and these new permissions apply automatically and without any request for them needing to be made.

it is a pity that this did not happen sooner as it is bound to cause some confusion. Some pharmacists will have abandoned opening plans and may have lost their premises as a result only to find that they can now open after all, but only if they are aware of these changes in time.

Please do get in touch if you have been affected by these rule changes and want some help.