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There is an urgent need to stem the tide of rising pharmacy closures

In our latest member voice article, a PDA member reports their experience of pharmacies closing despite there being cover available.

Fri 3rd September 2021 The PDA

I spoke to a manager of one of the pharmacies I used to locum for in the past who informed me that her head office advised that the pharmacy would have to close if she couldn’t get locum cover despite the fact that I had indicated my intention to help cover the relevant shift – albeit at a higher emergency rate.

It took her insistence for the head office to go through an e-mail I had sent confirming my availability for the shift the next day to avert a closure with the concomitant effect on patients’ health and well-being. Interestingly, this pharmacy had experienced a full day’s closure the previous Thursday.

“In the last week of July, I was informed by another colleague that the [Mulitple branch] pharmacy closed for a couple of days despite my applying for three shifts during that week through a locum agency portal, all of which were declined by the company ostensibly to avoid paying the premium rate.”

It seems the GPhC is wholly unprepared for this scenario which is unsurprising since its default modus operandi seems to be the over-regulation of the individual pharmacist while corporate pharmacy gets away with audacious pharmacy closures on the premise of ‘lack of pharmacists’. The GPhC would no doubt have found a robust response using the practice standards to remind pharmacists about their responsibility to the patient if they failed to turn up to pharmacies thus prompting closures.

The impact on community pharmacies

The situation in community pharmacy should not be entirely surprising. It’s simply a case of pharmacists ‘voting with their feet’ and seeking better job conditions and career fulfilment in other sectors of pharmacy, including PCNs and GP surgeries.

It was only a matter of time before pharmacists, including locums, turned their backs on a sector bedevilled by corporate greed, poor pay, demotivated staff, increasing workplace pressure, excessive workload, paper-pushing to the detriment of patient-facing roles and clinical outcomes…the list goes on.

Corporate pharmacy, including multiples, have had their day-living off the ‘sweat and toil’ of hard-working pharmacists and paying a pittance for their services, claiming the stagnating pharmacist pay levels, including locum rates, are a reflection of ‘market conditions’.

How many can forget GPhC’s only known ‘intervention’, a very unfortunate one indeed, in locum pay conditions with its call to locums to resist the temptation to hike their rates and ‘profiteer’ from the Covid-19 pandemic?

There is an urgent need to stem the tide of rising pharmacy closures, it’s shocking these can be allowed to happen in the first instance.

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