According to an online survey in June 2017 of 436 PDA members employed by Boots, 31 said they had closed their branch by “signing out entirely as the responsible pharmacist”.
Thirty respondents divulged the reasons for deciding to close the pharmacy – the most common of which was “inadequate staffing levels or staff competence” (47%), followed by “excessive workload” (30%).
Half of all respondents reported they had “contemplated” closing their pharmacy, but had not actually done so, according to the survey results, seen by C+D.
The PDA passed these findings to C+D in the wake of a BBC Inside Out programme – which aired on Monday (January 8) – investigating pharmacists’ concerns over “workload pressure and patient safety” at Boots.
In the programme, the BBC revealed that the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) conducted an investigation into staffing levels at the multiple in 2016, following concerns raised by a former professional standards manager at Boots, who alleged that its “staffing model…could put patient safety at risk”.
Reasons given for closing
Of the 207 pharmacists surveyed who said they had considered closing their pharmacy, 77% told the PDA they stayed open at least partly because the “decision would not be supported”.
The second most common reason – mentioned by 70% of respondents – was “fear of consequences”, followed by “management pressure” (59%).
Mark Pitt, assistant general secretary of the PDA, claimed its Boots members were deterred from closing their pharmacy over inadequate staffing levels and therefore patient safety concerns. Instead, they “struggle on” because they are “fearful of what would happen to them”.
“That fits in with the culture of fear that we and the BBC has said exists at [Boots],” Mr Pitt claimed.
“In a truly supportive environment, they would think their employer would [support them] as they are doing the right thing for patients,” Mr Pitt stressed. “Feedback we get from members is: keep [the pharmacy] open at all costs.”
In response to the PDA's survey results, Boots said it has a “clear standard operating procedure for closing a pharmacy”, which is “available to all pharmacists to follow without fear of reprisal”.
“It is not clear from the survey what respondents were concerned about – for instance, it could have been breaching obligations under the NHS pharmaceutical services contract, turning away patients or not putting patients first as part of the GPhC standards,” Boots said.
The multiple added that although the survey sample is “very small” and “not representative” of its 6,500 pharmacists, it values its pharmacists’ opinions and feedback.
“We have asked the PDA for more details on the survey. We have yet to receive them,” Boots said.
The PDA surveyed 436 of their Boots members in June 2017, 399 of whom categorised themselves as “Boots employee pharmacists”.