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4 things we learned from PDA’s safety survey of multiples

Findings reveal low staffing levels and the effect of financial cutbacks on services

An unpublished survey by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) made headlines last month after the Guardian used the findings in its article alleging that Boots pressures employees to carry out unnecessary medicines use reviews (MURs) for profit.

More than 600 Boots pharmacists took the survey, and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) revealed on April 14 that it is “liaising” with the PDA over its findings.

But the survey of just under 2,000 employee and locum pharmacists at multiples, which the PDA has since shared with C+D, paints a wider picture about how pharmacists feel about the safety – or lack thereof – of their working conditions.

Here’s the pick of what we learned:


1. Many pharmacies struggle with staffing levels

Respondents to the survey revealed that there are often not enough suitably qualified staff to provide "safe and effective" services, with 62% saying their pharmacy lacked this "around half" the time or more.

This compared to 37% who have enough staff "most" or "all" of the time.

Furthermore, 38% of respondents said their employer only arranges cover for staff absences that could have a "detrimental effect on services" a minority of the time. A further 19% said this never happens.


2. Financial cutbacks lead to patient safety issues

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents believe financial cutbacks imposed by their employer impact on patient safety "most of the time". This compared with 18% who feel this impacts on safety all of the time, and 23% who said it happens "around half of the time".


3. Commercial interests can compromise safety

The PDA's findings indicate that commercial incentives or targets regularly compromise the safety of patients or professional judgement. While 43% of respondents said commercial matters affect safety "a minority" or "none" of the time, 55% said patient safety is affected by these issues "around half" of the time or more.


4. Safety issues affect many large pharmacy companies

The responses from Boots pharmacists may have dominated the news last month, but the PDA’s survey reveals that patient safety issues are not confined to the health and beauty giant.

While Boots pharmacists made up 31% of respondents to the survey, it was also answered by pharmacists working for other prominent multiples, with 22% working for Lloydspharmacy, 10% working for Well and 9% working for Rowlands.


How often is safety affected in your pharmacy?

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