Pharmacies in Thanet, and across the country, are facing unprecedented demand and staff shortages and have now been told they must open on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Staff at Pierremont Pharmacy in Broadstairs and Newington Pharmacy are at ‘breaking point’ says Kent Group manager Doc Atherton.
The community pharmacies, run by The Manor Pharmacy Group, have seen a 300% rise on prescription requests as people worry about having adequate supplies and staff shortages as colleagues have to self-isolate.
Staff are working extra hours to try and keep on top of demand but are exhausted, says Doc.
And now the break they were hoping to get over this holiday weekend has been cancelled.
NHS England is requiring GP surgeries to be open on Good Friday and Easter Monday and has provided extra funding for them. Under National Health Service regulations and with agreement of the Secretary of State the health organisation also requires pharmacies in England to open from 2pm to 5pm on both those days.
Pharmacies are able to get some funding but the rate will not reflect a bank or public holiday premium.
This means the pharmacy group will have to foot the bill for the extra rate.
Doc (pictured above) said: “My staff at both Pierremont Pharmacy and Newington Pharmacy have been working a lot of extra hours by coming in early and finishing late so people can get their medicines.
“They are exhausted and were obviously looking forward to getting a small rest but now that won’t happen. They feel let down and not supported, which is very sad indeed. They know that we need them to work, we know we need to pay them extra for working on the bank holidays but the funding that we will get, won’t actually cover that.
“In addition, phamacies across Thanet and around the country are still under immense pressure as people continue to request prescriptions earlier than usual. Pharmacy staff are still having to self isolate in cases which puts more pressure on the rest of the teams.
“Although we have now put protective screens in, pharmacies have had to fund this out of their own pockets too. Pharmacy suppliers are behind on orders across the country due to the sheer demand, which of course also has a knock-on effect.
“We are at breaking point but the work continues and we are just getting even more snowed under.”
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is arguing for full bank holiday funding to support pharmacies as they open over the Easter break.
NHS England says: “We recognise the pressures and anxieties that frontline staff face in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
“A national letter was published supporting doctors and healthcare professionals in the Coronavirus pandemic. Major regulators have issued guidance to support health professionals in these challenging circumstances, encouraging partnership working, flexibility and operating in line with the best available guidance.
“The General Pharmaceutical Council has issued important guidance and information for pharmacies and professionals registered with them.”