A PHARMACIST has warned of a growing crisis in York after it emerged that pharmacies across the city have closed temporarily because of a shortage of staff. 

Boots’ Kings Square store closed completely on Monday, while others in Heworth and East Parade only opened for limited periods.

The pharmacy at Tesco's Askham Bar store closed for selected hours on six occasions at the end of July and beginning of August, and the one at its Clifton Moor store also operated with slightly shorter opening on 'a few occasions' in July.

Paul Brett, of Monkbar Pharmacy, said that other areas in the UK had been experiencing temporary closures and decreasing opening hours for months now, and warned that unless 'something significant is done, and very quickly, to address the crisis,' York residents wouldn’t be able to rely on their pharmacy being open when they needed it.

He said the shortage of pharmacists was due to a 'perfect storm' of struggling GP practices being paid by the NHS to recruit pharmacists to ease their pressures, online companies recruiting pharmacists to work remotely and spiralling locum pharmacist costs.

The NHS was also increasingly recognising community pharmacy as a provider of clinical services that could take the weight off GP practices. 

"New services are continually being commissioned and expected from pharmacists and, due to HMRC taxation rules, even those services that could be undertaken by a nurse, pharmacy technician or other trained support staff (like taking someone's blood pressure) must be undertaken by a pharmacist if being undertaken as part of an NHS service," he said.

He said Brexit might also have contributed to the problems, as it was tougher for EU pharmacists to come and work here now, and Covid had also had an impact, with stresses and work pressures from working on the front line having taken their toll, with many choosing to leave the profession or work part time.

A Boots spokesperson said it was experiencing some 'challenges with pharmacist resource,' but its teams were working hard to keep stores open, minimise disruption for customers and provide the best possible service.

"This has meant we have unfortunately had to alter our opening times at some stores," they said.

"We apologise to customers who have been affected and thank them for bearing with us and being kind to our team members at this time.”

They added that in line with General Pharmaceutical Council guidelines, depending on the pharmacy licence, some pharmacies had to close if there wasn’t a responsible pharmacist present.

A Tesco spokeswoman said it was 'proud to have a strong network of pharmacies supporting our customers' and delivering vital services.

She said that in areas where demand was particularly challenging, local pharmacy managers were working to ensure it had the cover it needed, and Tesco would always do everything it could to make sure a pharmacy stayed open.