Going away or shutting up/down (English is a great language when “up” equals “down”)

A message from your inspectors:

On rare occasions, the situation arises where a pharmacist, usually in a one-person business, suffers a sickness or accident or a pressing incident arises or perhaps requires a break or holiday. They need to be away from their pharmacy for a period, and are unable to employ a replacement pharmacist or pharmacists to allow their business to remain open.

The Council was recently approached by the family of a pharmacist in a one-pharmacist pharmacy who was unwell, and it was decided by the family that the pharmacy cease trading temporarily. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) had permitted the holding of the approval number for a period of six months in the circumstances.

In general, it is the professional responsibility of the pharmacist(s) registered as owner(s) of the pharmacy at the time of closure, to ensure that all requirements relating to disposal, storage or relocation of stock and records are actioned in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. This includes requirements relating to business records, patient records and security of all scheduled medicines.

In all such cases, it is also appropriate to place a legible notice at the entrance to the pharmacy advising of the situation and providing information to prospective customers of this. This should include a contact telephone number or email address, particularly if the pharmacy prior to the urgent closure was holding repeat prescriptions or dispensed prescriptions which had not been collected.

The notice should be displayed as early as possible particularly if the pharmacy will be closed due to the pharmacist taking a break, so that regular customers are able to obtain regular medication prior to the pharmacist’s departure, and are informed that there will be no pharmacy service available until the return date in the notice.

This also raises the question of what to do with S4B and S8 repeat prescriptions held by law at the pharmacy. It may be appropriate to seek advice from the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit (PRU) which administers the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation, and to advise the PRU of the closure as this may have a bearing on the operation of the Opioid Treatment Program.

Additionally, any entry to the premises can only legally be made by a registered pharmacist who would need to keep the keys to the pharmacy, as any other person who entered the pharmacy would be in unauthorised possession of scheduled medicines which is an offence under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation, unless all Schedule 2, 3, 4 and 8 substances had been removed from the premises/returned to wholesalers.

Any owner who is in the situation described may also need to remember to keep up to date with any of the following which may fall due during their absence.

  • Pharmacy Registration - Pharmacy Council
  • Annual Declaration - Pharmacy Council
  • Pharmacist Registration - Ahpra
  • Personal Indemnity Insurance
  • Building Insurance          
  • Contents Insurance        
  • Workers Compensation

It would also be prudent to check with your insurers if the policies apply in the situation canvassed.

The examples mentioned in this article do not necessarily cover all situations.  You will need to consider your own circumstances carefully and pose your questions to the appropriate persons.

So, in summary, it would appear reasonable practice in the situations described to place a notice at the pharmacy entrance as soon as possible advising of the closure and expected length whether it be days, weeks or months and contact details of someone who is aware of the progress of the pharmacist.