FIGURES from NHS Fife have shown that the number of unscheduled pharmacy closures in the region doubled last year compared to 2021.

Following a freedom of information request, NHS Fife revealed there were 316 unscheduled closures last year, compared to just 157 of the previous year.

Willie Rennie, North East Fife MSP, has said that these figures are "alarming".

He said: "These figures are concerning. People rely on the service that community pharmacies provide, and they are an increasingly important part of how healthcare is delivered.

"Unscheduled closures undermine that good work. Clearly some disruption is inevitable, for example if staff are sick and replacements can’t be found in time. However it is alarming to see the number of closures double year on year.

"There is real pressure on the pharmacy workforce. Recent years have seen efforts to recruit more trained pharmacists into GP practices. That is important and a positive development, but the Scottish Government must ensure that there are enough pharmacists to meet this growing demand.

"It is also the responsibility of large chain pharmacies to manage their workforce effectively as they are responsible for a large proportion of these temporary closures."

NHS Fife and the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership have been working with local pharmacy contractors to help provide stability to community pharmacy services.

NHS Fife’s Director of Pharmacy and Medicines, Benjamin Hannan, said: “Community pharmacies are a crucial part of the healthcare system and provide vital services for people in Fife each and every day.

“Local pharmacies operate as independent contractors and there are occasions, such as where a pharmacist is unwell, where it may be necessary for a pharmacy to close for a period at short notice. Such closures should only be in exceptional circumstances, and for the minimum time possible.

“There are also particular pressures on the pharmacy workforce and this is an issue which is being experienced across the country, with a number of pharmacies having difficulty recruiting both permanent and locum staff. The issue has also been exacerbated by sickness amongst pharmacy teams due to COVID and other circulating viruses.

“NHS Fife and the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership have been working with local pharmacy contractors to ensure measures are in place to provide stability within community pharmacy services. The aim of this work is to help support pharmacies where required and reduce the number of unplanned closures we are seeing.”