Changing Core Opening Hours

Published on: 6th June 2024 | Updated on: 6th June 2024

Pharmacy owners who want to change their core contractual hours (core opening hours) must apply to the ICB.

Pharmacy owners have no right to change core opening hours, but must apply for any changes. This is not a notification procedure. Consequently, applications to change core opening hours may be granted or refused. An ICB is required, to consider and determine applications within 60 days, and any changes, if approved, may be implemented only after 30 days (from the date approval).

The success of an application will depend on many factors, and a pharmacy owner should ensure evidence is provided to show that the pharmacy will either:

  • maintain the existing level of NHS pharmacy provision (e.g. to redistribute 40 core opening hours); or
  • maintain a sustainable level of adequate NHS pharmacy provision where maintaining the existing level of provision is either unnecessary or not realistically achievable (e.g. to open for fewer than 40 core opening hours).

Evidence could inlcude, for example, changes to the local surgery hours, and the opening hours of neighbouring pharmacies, but provide as much factual information as possible about the needs of the pharmacy’s patients – patient surveys, records of levels of use (prescriptions and requests for advice / OTC medicines sales).

Recent appeal cases (which can be found on the Primary Care Appeals decisions website) identify key evidence as the distance from the pharmacy to nearby pharmacies, how patients could travel to them, the opening hours of them and the services those pharmacies offer.

To support this evidence applicants could provide survey data, for the hours they wish to change, to show how patients are travelling to the pharmacy and reason for their visit (e.g. dispensing services).

Providing evidence to show that maintaining the existing level of provision is not realistically achievable is more problematic for applicants with the appeals decsions noting ‘this sets a fairly high bar as to the level of difficultly that the Applicant must find themselves in’. Therefore if an application is relying on this provision they must show sufficient evidence to indicate that the economic and practical viability of the current opening hours has been compromised.

There is a template notification form for notifying ICBs (see Chapter 36, Annex 2 – Application form – application to change core opening hours) and the relevant ICB email address on the pharmacy contract teams’ web page.

If an application is not granted the applicant has the right of appeal and must be made to an officer or employee of the NHS Litigation Service or a committee established in accordance with the Directions to the Primary Care Appeals Servicee. The Primary Care Appeals service, may confirm the decision of the ICB or set aside the decision and grant the application.

If an application is successful, the pharmacy may change the core opening hours but not earlier than 30 days after the approval has been recieved. Pharmacy owners will also need to update their opening hours on their NHS website profile and Directory of Services (DoS) profile using the NHS Profile Manager tool, to reflect the revised opening hours.

For more information on this topic please email