The new, imposed NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) (PLPS) Regulations 2013 come into force tomorrow, 25 May 2023, and introduce:
a ‘notification’ procedure for 100-hour pharmacies to reduce their total weekly core opening hours to no less than 72 hours, subject to various requirements;
a notification procedure for introducing or changing rest breaks, by changing core opening hours (100-hour or former 100-hour pharmacies apply for rest breaks);
provision for local hours plans to be agreed by the local Integrated Care Board (ICB) with temporarily reduced opening hours for participating pharmacies within the area of the plan;
a requirement to have a business continuity plan dealing with temporary closures and to action it in the event of a temporary closure (suspension) (a terms of service requirement from 31 July 2023); and
other regulatory amendments, including changes to fitness information and the procedures for applying to change core opening hours and notifying changes of supplementary opening hours.
Following the online webinar last week we have updated the briefing note on the PLPS regulatory changes, and it now includes additional information to clarify certain issues in relation to 100-hour pharmacies.
The on-demand version of the webinar will be uploaded to our website shortly. In the meantime, we have summarised the key points and updates following questions we received at the webinar below.
For 100-hour or former 100-hour pharmacies only
‘New’ application route to reduce total weekly core opening hours (to no less than 72)
From 25 May 2023, contractors may apply to reduce the total weekly core opening hours of 100-hour pharmacies to not less than 72.
Contractors are advised to wait for NHS England to publish the template application forms before applying, as this will help them make a valid application. These application forms are likely to be published by the end of this week, by Friday 26th May. Only valid applications will enable contractors to reduce total weekly core opening hours (to not less than 72) in accordance with the PLPS regulations.
Contractors are encouraged to consider carefully the needs of their patients, the public and their business requirements, and any required rest breaks, when they apply to reduce the total weekly core opening hours of 100-hour pharmacies (to not less than 72).
An application to reduce total weekly core opening hours (to not less than 72):
may be made from 25 May 2023,
may be made any time after 25 May 2023,
may be made more than once (until the core opening hours are 72 each week and may not be reduced further),
if the application is valid, core opening hours may be changed after the notice period which must be a minimum of 5-weeks (after making the application to the relevant ICB – see pharmacy contract teams and map of ICBs) but contractors are advised to wait until they receive the ICB decision,
a valid application to reduce total weekly core opening hours (to 72 or above) must not change/reduce any existing: (a) core opening hours Monday to Saturday 5pm to 9pm, (b) core opening hours Sunday 11am to 4pm and (c) total Sunday core opening hours (and must provide other relevant information such as the details of the contractor and pharmacy, notice period/start date as requested on the template application form), and
subject to the application being valid, other core opening hours may be decided/changed by the contractor, without reference to patient needs.
5. Any core opening hours decided/changed by a contractor under an application to reduce total weekly core opening hours, such as a decision to have core opening hours through the night, should be carefully considered. Later, the ICB may decide that such core opening hours are important to meet patients’ needs and be unwilling to reduce them under an application route to change/rearrange core opening hours.
6. Applications for rest breaks (for no longer than one hour) must be made as part of an application to reduce and/or to change/rearrange core opening hours. The notification process for rest breaks (for no longer than one hour) does not apply to 100-hour pharmacies.
7. Applications to reduce total weekly core opening hours may include a rest break between 11am and 4pm on a Sunday provided that the rest break starts at least 3 hours after the start of the pharmacy’s opening hours and ends at least 3 hours before the end of the pharmacy’s opening hours. No rest breaks are permitted Monday to Saturday between 5pm and 9pm. At other times, core opening hours may be arranged to give any rest break in core opening hours.
Once contractors have reduced core opening hours to 72 (or made the first of several applications to reduce core opening hours, if they are reducing in stages) (or they are subject to an existing direction on opening hours), any change/redistribution of core opening hours is subject to consideration of patient needs and the decision of the ICB, and they are locked into the their existing (a) core opening hours Monday to Saturday 5pm to 9pm, (b) core opening hours Sunday 11am to 4pm and (c) total Sunday core opening hours.
If contractors want to seek to change/rearrange the days and times of any of their (current) core opening hours, they MUST make an application to do so before reducing their total weekly core opening hours (to not less than 72) and before being subject to a direction on core opening hours. This may, for example, give contractors an opportunity to rearrange core opening hours on a Sunday to another day, before they seek to reduce total weekly core opening hours. These applications will be decided by the ICB in relation to patient needs and may or may not be granted. ICBs may be reluctant to reduce extended core opening hours because the new PLPS regulations seek to maintain them and making such an application would delay when a contractor can apply to reduce total weekly core opening hours. (Contractors are advised to seek legal advice if they are considering this approach.)
Contractors may want to wait until NHS England guidance on the new regulations has been issued and there is fuller understanding of how the regulations will apply.
‘Existing’ application route, to redistribute core opening hours – to change/rearrange the days and times at which core opening hours are provided
Applications to change/rearrange the days and times at which core opening hours are provided can be made before and/or after any application to reduce core opening hours (to no less than 72 each week) (but see the update above).
Applications to change/rearrange the days and times at which core opening hours are provided may include rest breaks (see above).
Applications to change/rearrange the days and times at which core opening hours are provided are subject to consideration of patient needs and may or may not be granted by the ICB.
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