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Pharmacy time spent sourcing medicines more than doubles to 11 hours a week

Pharmacies are spending 11 hours per week sourcing medicines, more than double the time spent last year, the pharmacy negotiator has revealed.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) 2023 pharmacy pressures survey, published yesterday (April 13), polled more than 2,000 pharmacy team members and 900 pharmacy owners and head office representatives covering more than 6,200 premises.

It revealed that the vast majority (92%) of pharmacy teams are contending with medicine supply shortages daily, which has “increased significantly” since last year’s annual survey when the figure stood at 67%.

And some 93% of pharmacy owners reported that their staff were spending “longer than ever before” on medicines procurement, PSNC said.

Read more: Just 7% of pharmacy owners say their business is ‘profitable’, reveals PSNC


The average “extra staff time needed to procure medicines” was 11 hours per week – more than double the 5.3 hours reported in last year’s pressures survey, it added.

The survey also revealed that 97% of pharmacy owner respondents reported “significant increases” in wholesaler and medicine supply issues, while 71% reported “significant increases in delays in prescriptions being issued”.


“Additional stress”


Medicines supply issues have caused “serious implications” for both pharmacy teams and patients, PSNC warned.

Out of the pharmacy staff surveyed, 97% stated that they were experiencing extra workload and 96% said that they were under “additional stress” due to supply issues.

Read more: DH extends 11 HRT and penicillin SSPs until late April


Almost all (98%) pharmacy staff reported that this left patients “frustrated”, while 97% said patients were “inconvenienced” and 87% said that patients’ health is being “put at risk due to medicine supply issues”, PSNC said.


“Barely coping”


Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that more than three-quarters (78%) of pharmacy team members said that their work was having a “negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing”.

When asked to rate how they and their team members were coping with the current pharmacy pressures, almost a third (31%) of pharmacy staff said they were “barely coping”.

Read more: DH issues new estradiol patch SSP as HRT tablets also out of stock until June


And almost nine in ten (88%) pharmacy owners told PSNC that they were “concerned or extremely concerned” about the wellbeing of their pharmacy teams, according to the negotiator.

Reasons cited by pharmacy teams for why they were “not coping at work” included increased workload (81%), problems sourcing medicines for patients (71%), increases in patient requests for support (81%), patient abuse (45%) and staff unavailability (34%).



“Alarm bells”


Chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), Dr Leyla Hannbeck, stressed that medicines supply issues are just “one example” of the “serious pressures” pharmacy teams are facing.

“The survey highlights what we already know that community pharmacies are struggling to survive due to years of underfunding and other severe pressures,” she told C+D.

But she added that commissioners are “turning a blind eye” to the “plight” of the sector, which is “currently fighting for its survival”, as well as the impact on patient care and health inequalities.

Read more: ‘There’s no escape from it’: How stress is pushing contractors to the limit


“We hope PSNC can use this data to effectively negotiate” with the government, Dr Hannbeck said.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) vice-chair Nick Kaye added that it is “tragic that pharmacists are now less able to provide the prompt service people have become used to over the years”.

The survey’s results “should ring alarm bells in government and at NHS England (NHSE)”, he said.

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