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Pharmacy lights out protest: PDA warns against ‘dire consequences’

Pharmacy contractors “must not” adjust pharmacists’ pay or “pressure” them into taking part in protest action on June 20, the pharmacy union has said.  

The “day of protest action” set to be staged across UK pharmacies later this month risks enforced pay changes for pharmacists and “severe” patient safety implications, the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) has warned.

Last week (June 4), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) announced an “emergency” day of protest action on June 20 to “signify dark times for the beleaguered community pharmacy sector”.

It called on pharmacies across the UK to turn the lights out for a few hours, ask staff to wear black or black out windows, and use the day to engage with patients and parliamentary candidates.

But on Friday (June 7), the pharmacy union published an open letter to the NPA saying that employee and locum pharmacists “should not come under pressure to participate”.

“Although the proposed series of actions includes symbolic actions, some of your members may choose not to follow your guidance, resulting in closures of up to two hours,” it added.

“Employers must not unilaterally adjust pharmacists’ normal pay and working patterns to accommodate this activity,” the PDA said. 

“Any existing agreements on locum pay for that day must be honoured,” it added. 

The NPA stressed that it does not "recommend stopping services" and therefore the union's letter “raises concerns over types of actions that we have never proposed".


“Severe implications”


The union said that its “primary concern” was patient safety and that turning off lights “could have severe implications including reduced medicines, appliances and label visibility”, as well as “trips and falls”.

“The inability to see patients’ details clearly when handing out medication could lead to dire consequences for patients and the responsible pharmacist (RP) on duty,” it added.

It stressed that the RP “has mandatory duties to ensure the pharmacy’s safe and effective operation”.

“Whilst the pharmacy proprietor could decide to participate in the day of action, the RP must be free to exercise their professional judgment in the pharmacy and should not be influenced by the proprietor,” it said. 

“In light of the concerns many of our members expressed, we will not take a position for or against your proposals on the day,” it added.


 “We don’t recommend stopping services”


An NPA spokesperson told C+D today that the membership body has “been in touch” with the union and stressed that pharmacies taking part “should put patient and staff safety first” – “that point is clearly made in the guidance we have issued to NPA members”.

“The letter raises concerns over types of actions that we have never proposed – and we’ve been clear that we don’t recommend stopping services,” they added.

Read more: Welcome to the funeral for community pharmacy - almost

“We are keen that PDA members feel able to join this action because it’s in all our interests to campaign for a thriving pharmacy sector,” they said.

The spokesperson added that the NPA is “due to have further discussions with the PDA in the next few days” and hopes to “allay any concerns its members might have”.

Meanwhile, the NPA last week stressed that it was “not currently in a position to recommend strike action” after taking “legal advice”.

“We would be reluctant to support any action that impairs patient care, but we understand the level of anger that has led to calls for strike action,” it added.

Last month, pharmacists across France left the dispensing counter to strike over funding, closures and drug shortages.


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