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‘Concerning but unsurprising’: 10% say their pharmacy never has safe staffing levels

One in 10 pharmacists work in an environment that is never staffed to an adequate level, according to the results of a Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) survey.

The PDA’s 2022 Safer Staffing Survey polled 1,452 members between November 29 and December 27, asking them about staffing levels, self-checking prescriptions and how easy it was for them to raise concerns in the workplace.

Over one in 10 respondents (11%) said their pharmacy had safe staffing levels “none of the time” in the six months to the survey, with another 30% saying this was the case a minority of the time.

Some 24% reported working in a safely staffed pharmacy around half of the time, while 31% said this happened of the time.

Read more: A fifth of employee pharmacists report ‘dangerous’ levels of understaffing

Just 4% of those surveyed said that their pharmacy had enough staff to run safely “all of the time”.

The PDA classed safe staffing levels as when a pharmacy could meet its legal, contractual and regulatory obligations, could meet workload in accordance with standard operating procedures (SOPs) and could carry out other work “in accordance with the organisation’s expectations”.

It comes as results from the C+D Salary Survey 2022 last month (February 23) revealed that a fifth of employee pharmacists reported dangerously low staffing levels.

 

Temporary closures "backdrop"

 

The union said its survey results were “concerning but unsurprising” given the “frequency of unplanned temporary community pharmacy closures, which have remained an ongoing backdrop”.

Read more: Revealed: The reasons behind temporary pharmacy closures

A C+D investigation last year revealed that there were more than 20,000 reported instances of temporary pharmacy closures in England over a 12-month period, with many of these being blamed on staff sickness or an inability to secure locum cover.

 

“Massive stress”

 

One anonymous respondent to the PDA’s survey said that insufficient staffing levels were adding to the time patients spent waiting for their prescriptions, “placing massive stress levels on the staff and the pharmacist”.

Another respondent said that staffing levels were “woefully inadequate” and actively “dangerous” at some companies.

Read more: Six in 10 independent pharmacies cut staff to ‘limit costs’ in 2022

“Stress is constant and staff morale at rock bottom. It will take the death of a patient before something happens,” they said.

It comes as six in 10 independent pharmacies were forced to cut staff last year in order to weather financial challenges, according to a survey of National Pharmacy Association (NPA) members.

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