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Coping with MUR targets – dos and don'ts

Numark and the PDA Union share their dos and don'ts for dealing with MUR pressure

MUR targets split pharmacists into two distinct camps. Those who cheerily greet the challenge with "I'll smash this!", and those who feel they'd rather smash their head repeatedly against a brick wall.

Most pharmacists seem to fall into the latter group when it comes to MUR targets – perhaps explaining why they have made the news so often of late. Fear of missing targets has on several occasions been cited as the reason behind fitness-to-practise cases where pharmacists have falsified MUR records.

The trend has prompted the Pharmacists' Defence Association to escalate the issue with a letter to the government last month, in which it warned that target pressures must not be "swept under the carpet".

Address target problems early to avoid stress-related conditions, the PDA and Numark advise

But it could take a while to for the government to respond – and when it does it's far from certain things will change – so what can pharmacists do to cope with the pressure in the meantime?

DON'T agree to unrealistic targets

Employers are often keen to fill their quota of 400 MURs per pharmacy a year – equating to 7.7 a week. But MURs should only be conducted when they benefit patients, and any targets should be achievable for the individual pharmacist.

The PDA Union advises pharmacists to scrutinise their targets carefully before agreeing. "Almost all multiples have an annual target of 400 MURs, usually broken down into two per day regardless of how achievable they are," says Mark Pitt, the union's membership services manager. "Never agree to targets that are unlikely to be achieved."

Numark head of information services Gary Choo echoes the advice. "Depending on your work pattern, contract and when your target is set, you can suggest and negotiate a number that you feel it is reasonable for you to achieve during a week," he tells C+D. "You could provide several alternative solutions to the area manager and agree on a compromise if necessary."

DO keep your employer informed

Meeting your targets 100 per cent of the time is no mean feat. And, regardless of what The Apprentice candidates tell you, no-one can give 110 per cent. So what do can you do when your numbers are falling short of the mark?

Keeping your employer informed is vital, says Mr Choo, "this ensures there will be no surprises when the target is not met". He suggests meeting with your area manager on a monthly or weekly basis to update them on your progress.

And the PDA Union advises pharmacists to put any serious concerns in writing. This should state your reasons for being unable to meet your target and any extra resources you need to get back on track, says Mr Pitt.

DON'T bury your head in the sand

As much as we may want them to, targets won't go away. And once they've got on top of you, it can be difficult to break the cycle. The PDA Union emphasises that pharmacists should be quick to voice their concerns if they feel affected by the stress.

"Early action is essential to avoid being put through a capability or disciplinary process," Mr Pitt warns. He suggests putting any health impact in writing and asking either for a health and safety stress audit, or a referral to occupational health.

Numark advises pharmacists to voice their feelings in meetings with their line manager to ensure they are aware of your efforts. Mr Choo says workplace stress often arises from lack of communication and managers may be unaware of how much work you have done. He reiterates the importance of taking early action. "Things have a habit of creeping up on you and it may be too late to prevent stress-related conditions affecting your work," Mr Choo warns.

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