I have noticed an increase in PCTs using legal sticks with which to beat 100-hour pharmacies. I have to be neutral about 100-hour pharmacies, because I have some clients who own them and others who object to them. But if PCTs are going to use the law, they had better get it right.
A number of PCTs have been trying to use powers under LPS regulations to designate an area in which they say they are interested in awarding a contract for local pharmaceutical services, then announce they will not consider any applications for contracts.
I suspect the motive is to avoid having to grant applications for 100-hour contracts. However, some of these designations are of dubious legality and I have successfully challenged some of them.
Then there’s Christmas opening. The NHS terms of service say that for the purpose of counting core hours, pharmacies are deemed to have been open on Christmas Day and bank holidays if they would ordinarily have been open on that day of the week. Bank holidays are defined in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.
In England, the definition includes December 26 – or December 27 if, like this year, December 26 falls on a Sunday.
So Boxing Day will not be a bank holiday this year. This could be a problem for pharmacies that ordinarily open on Sundays, if pharmacists want December 26 with their families, or because they want to give their staff that day off.
This is an issue for supermarket pharmacies that are normally open for 100 hours a week. It is obviously impractical to open a pharmacy within a store that is closed. However, some PCTs have shown little tolerance, insisting that in-store pharmacies should open, often without taking into account other pharmacies that are open.
At about 6pm on Christmas Day last year, my daughter received her secret code number for Tamiflu. My wife and I set off for the nearest open pharmacy. We rang ahead and the pharmacist, who was due to close, agreed to stay open till we got there. This year, I hope that instead of fixating on pharmacies that close at Christmas, PCTs will join me in paying tribute to the ones that open.
David Reissner is a specialist in pharmacy law and head of healthcare at Charles Russell LLP (www.charlesrussell.co.uk). Contact him on 0207 203 5065 or email firstname.lastname@example.org[source]