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Staffing levels ‘dangerous’, pharmacy employees warn

Almost half of employees said their workload was unrealistic according to C+D's Salary Survey

Eighteen per cent of employee pharmacists believe that staffing levels are so low they have become dangerous, according to the C+D Salary Survey 2016.

Almost half said their workload was “often unrealistic”, with 12% saying it was “always unrealistic”. Just over a third said it was “not at all easy” to fit in services around their dispensing workload.

The survey, taken by 528 employee pharmacists (community pharmacists, branch managers and second or non-manager pharmacists), ran from October 16 to December 21, 2015.

Dorset contractor and National Pharmacy Association board member Mike Hewitson (pictured) said that employees and employers have different viewpoints as to what a realistic workload is.

“I work a 60 hour-plus week regardless, so what I think is a reasonable workload is going to be different to an employee on a 36-hour week,” Mr Hewitson said.

He said he does not believe that contractors set out to cut corners, but the potential drop in funding facing pharmacy may stretch staffing to unsafe levels.

“A possible knock-on effect is the closing of pharmacies, adding strain to those still operating,” he said.“If you go from three pharmacies to two pharmacies in a town, then that is going to be a problem.” 

Royal Pharmaceutical Society English pharmacy board chair and locum pharmacist Sandra Gidley said the results mirror her personal experience.

“Unrealistic demands are placed upon pharmacists, often by non-pharmacist managers and area managers, who have little or no conception of the true nature
of the many demands on a community pharmacist,” Ms Gidley said.

“I have walked into branches to find staff in tears because of a backlog of work. In those situations, my priority is to reassure the staff and plan how we are going to get on top of things.”

Last month, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) called on employers, pharmacy leaders and the regulator to ensure that pharmacists are protected against workplace pressures in a report published on June 27.

Pharmacists’ time could be freed up to provide more clinical services if they were able to process medicines via hub-and-spoke dispensing, the report suggested. However, it warned that this approach should not pile on pressure to complete more services.

The General Pharmaceutical Council launched a “programme of work” to tackle workplace pressures, after an investigation in the Guardian alleged that patient safety is risked by commercial targets in the multiples.

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