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PDA warns of 'inadequate’ support and unsafe workloads for GP pharmacists

A survey by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has revealed concerns about “inadequate” training, time pressures, workload and pay from its members working in general practice.

The survey conducted by the PDA ran for four weeks during May and June and received 1,378 responses from members of the union who work in GP practices across the UK.

Analysing the findings, published last week (29 September), the PDA said that they revealed a “fascinating and at times concerning snapshot of…the general practice frontline”.

It found that “pay not reflecting the level of expertise” required and “being given tasks that fall outside their areas of routine practice” without “additional training or support” were “key areas of concern raised by a significant number of respondents”.

The union highlighted that some respondents were asked to complete “up to 100 tasks a day plus clinic appointments [and] query fielding”, with just 10 minutes to complete structured medication reviews. 

It said that these workloads “far exceeded the time available to carry them out safely”.

And it added that pharmacist prescribers were “expected to take on GP prescribing” and even diagnostic activities “in some cases” although they were paid “significantly less than their medical colleagues”.


Lack of support


The PDA said that its survey also revealed a “lack of ongoing general training and support from practices”, with "just under 60%" of respondents saying that they were receiving “adequate ongoing training and support to enable them to carry out their role”.

For example, pharmacists working in GP practices were asked to “take responsibility for setting up and running heart failure clinics with no previous experience and no support or supervision”, it added.

“Inadequate induction” was another issue raised by respondents, with just 41% reporting that their induction had been “good or great”, the survey revealed.

Some of the respondents who raised this issue were “relatively junior pharmacists”, the PDA said.

Meanwhile, respondents also reported that they had not been given “sufficient time for training”, including being told to take annual leave to complete training when time “should have been provided”, it added.

And others were not provided with “suitable work locations”, with some expected to conduct telephone medication reviews while “seated in open plan offices or other inappropriate settings”, the PDA said.




The union said that many respondents found working in general practice “professionally rewarding – albeit still feeling that they were undervalued”.

The survey revealed that just two-thirds (65%) said that they felt they were “treated as a full member of the practice team”, it added.

But the PDA said that despite these issues, it was “encouraging to see the number of pharmacists now working in general practice”.


More GP pharmacists?


The results of the survey follow NHS England’s (NHSE) new long term workforce plan, published earlier this summer.

The document set out plans to expand the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS), which recruits pharmacists into primary care networks (PCNs) in general practice.

At the time, pharmacy sector leaders warned that the impact of the ARRS scheme on community pharmacies had been “disastrous” and asked why investments couldn’t be made into “community pharmacy instead”.

Meanwhile, MPs last month voiced concerns about staffing shortfalls in community pharmacies, noting that pharmacies are “struggling” to retain staff due to recruitment into primary care roles via the ARRS and suggesting that the scheme needed to be “carefully” managed.


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