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‘Aggressive’ Rowlands email demands locum Pharmacy First declaration

A group of locum pharmacists working for Rowlands have said they feel “intimidated to deliver Pharmacy First services” at the multiple, it has been revealed.

A group of locum pharmacists that work at Rowlands Pharmacy said they have been “intimidated” to self-declare their competence for providing Pharmacy First services, according to an open letter sent today (January 31) and seen by C+D.

Rowlands told C+D that locums are “responsible” for ensuring they are competent to deliver the service and stressed that it has said it “may” cancel locum bookings and not that it will.

An email sent earlier this month (January 19) by Rowlands’ pharmacist resource and recruitment manager Sally Lloyd said that locums must provide a declaration that they are competent to provide Pharmacy First services, or else may have their booking cancelled. 

Read more: Asda in Pharmacy First locum row over ‘unacceptable’ email

Rowlands’ locum declaration, seen by C+D, also requires confirmation that they “understand” that they “will be required to provide the service whilst working in all Rowlands pharmacies”.

The locum group said that the email was “aggressive in tone” and that pharmacists should not be “put under pressure or threatened to self-declare their competence”. 

The locums flagged a risk to patient safety if pharmacists felt “intimidated to deliver the Pharmacy First services”. 

Read more: Nearly half of patients ‘unaware’ of Pharmacy First, survey reveals

They expressed concern that their shifts would be cancelled and they would not be booked for any future shifts if they declined to deliver the services when they did not feel “ready” or competent to provide them or were faced with understaffing. 

The locum group told C+D that the multiple’s “regularly used locums” had not been offered “any training support" for Pharmacy First and that there was no indication that pharmacists would receive additional compensation for providing Pharmacy First services. 


Locums “responsible” for ensuring competency


A Rowlands spokesperson told C+D that locums are “responsible for ensuring that they are competent to deliver the service” but that NHS England (NHSE) “does not state any mandatory training requirements”.

“All pharmacists should self-declare their own competence and it is this declaration of competence we are asking locums for,” they said.

The spokesperson added that while pharmacists “employed” by Rowlands have received training on the service, it does not provide locums with training as they are “self-employed professionals” in line with “historical guidance from HMRC”.

Read more: Leadsom: ‘We want to support you in every way we can’

“However, we have suggested to locum pharmacists that they use Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) resources to identify any training needs and we would certainly signpost any locums who enquire to the CPPE training available to all pharmacists,” they said.

The spokesperson stressed that the multiple has said that it “may” cancel locum bookings if no declaration is received and not that it will.


PDA: RP's "sole discretion"


Meanwhile, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) yesterday (January 30) “reiterated” its guidance for responsible pharmacists (RPs) amid reports that pharmacists have been “under pressure to say they are competent prematurely”. 

The PDA noted that pharmacists have been warned that they may have shifts cancelled or may not be booked in future if they do not declare their competency “in advance”.

However, the pharmacy union said that “one major employer” had advised that the service should be temporarily suspended “if employed pharmacists are not able to confirm that they are competent” - although it remains unclear which employer this is.

Read more: Half of pharmacists warn not enough staff to ‘safely’ provide Pharmacy First

The PDA advised that it is up to the RP to determine whether or not they feel “confident or competent” to provide the Pharmacy First services.

The union said that if they determine that the pharmacy lacks “the necessary resources, including sufficient, competent staff”, then they should “follow their employer’s business continuity plans” around the temporary withdrawal of the services.

“Operating the Pharmacy First Service is at the sole discretion of the RP each day in each pharmacy, as the Medicines Act places a legal duty on the RP to secure the safe and effective running of the pharmacy,” the PDA said, adding that pharmacy owners are legally required to “enable the RP to exercise his/her professional judgement, as appropriate”.


Training worries


It comes after C+D yesterday reported that pharmacists had raised concerns about an email from a regional healthcare manager claiming that Asda will not book locums that refuse to offer Pharmacy First services.

An Asda spokesperson told C+D that it is “providing support” for its pharmacists “to feel confident in providing the new services”, while C+D learned that the supermarket had provided free Pharmacy First training to all of its pharmacists, including locums.

Read more: NHSE campaign will ‘encourage public’ to use Pharmacy First from mid-February

And last week, C+D reported the results of a major PDA survey that found just 1% of respondents had completed “all of the training” for Pharmacy First, while 63% had completed no training.

When asked about training for the “rest of the pharmacy team”, 53% of respondents said that no training had taken place and 16% said that the training that had been given “was not enough”.

And almost half of the “more than 3,500” pharmacists surveyed about the Pharmacy First service said that pharmacies do not have enough staff to “safely” deliver existing services, let alone new ones.

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