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What is life really like working at the sector’s biggest employers?

See how pharmacy workers at the largest multiples fared in terms of pay rises, bonuses, work-life balance, stress levels and workload during 2023, according to data from the C+D Salary Survey

Pharmacists working at the sector’s biggest multiples are seeing a rise in workload, with 92% reporting an increase over the last year, C+D’s Salary Survey can reveal.

C+D gathered responses from 124 pharmacists working across nine multiples, including 71 branch managers and 53 second or non-manager pharmacists.

The multiples included Asda, Boots, Day Lewis, the former Lloydspharmacy, Morrisons, Rowlands, Superdrug, Tesco and Well – with Boots employees representing 38% of these respondents.

The average salary among all respondent pharmacists working across the multiples was £45,826 in 2023. 

Seven in ten (69%) pharmacists received a pay rise and two in ten (21%) saw their salary remain the same, but almost one in ten (8%) saw a drop in income.

Meanwhile, 61% of pharmacists working at the multiples received a bonus last year.

But the vast majority (77%) of these pharmacists also reported “unrealistic” workloads – branding their workload “often unrealistic” (54%) or “always unrealistic” (23%) - with one pharmacist describing their workload as “totally preposterous”.

Read more: Average salary of non-manager pharmacists sees dramatic uplift

And stress levels were “somewhat high”, “high”, or “very high” among 81% of respondents.

Amid this backdrop, half (51%) of pharmacists working at the multiples expressed disillusionment with the profession and a desire to change careers.

A further 16% said they were happy with their career choice but wished to change the sector in which they work.


“Cold, filthy facilities”


C+D’s Salary Survey also recorded a host of comments from pharmacists working at the multiples, detailing poor working environments, “pressure from management”, “terrible” work/life balance and “unrealistic” targets despite staffing shortages.

One complained that their workplace conditions at their branch were “awful”, with “cold, filthy facilities”. 

Another pharmacist said that the 5% pay rise offered to them was “not enough to cover the rising cost of living”. This was echoed by another respondent, who told C+D that salaries were “frequently falling behind inflation”.

And one pharmacist said that they were pushed to provide services even though dispensing was “still busy”.

Read more: What was the average UK pharmacist branch manager salary in 2023?

Workforce shortages were a common theme, with comments that staffing was “bare bones” and concerns about patient safety.

“We are all undervalued and unappreciated,” one pharmacist told C+D, while others said they were “concerned about the future of the business”.

“My store is closing despite performing well," one pharmacist said.


Seismic change


It comes amid a seismic change to the shape of the sector, with C+D analysis revealing in September that the numbers of pharmacies owned by small chains overtook those owned by large multiples in June - with the trend looking set to continue.

Last year, Lloydspharmacy sold its entire community pharmacy estate, while Boots set out plans to close 300 branches.

And over 250 pharmacies in supermarket chains were set to have closed by the end of 2023, with multiple closures also announced at Tesco and Asda, alongside Lloydspharmacy’s closure of all its Sainsbury’s branches.

Read more: At a glance: How do locum rates vary across Great Britain?

Meanwhile, Day Lewis revealed it was “pausing acquisitions” and merging and “disposing” of branches amid inflation-linked costs and Rowlands set out a “close, merge, dispose” strategy amid £219m in losses and

But Superdrug said it planned to open 25 new bricks-and-mortar stores in 2023 as part of a major “investment strategy”.

The C+D Salary Survey 2023 ran between October 27 2023 and January 8 2024 and was completed by a total of 1,261 pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

Due to a decrease in the number of responses from pharmacists working at the multiples, year-on-year comparisons for this data are not possible.

See all the coverage so far on the C+D Salary Survey hub.

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