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PDA: 7% of Boots pharmacists closed their pharmacy during normal hours

Mark Pitt: PDA members feel they must keep the pharmacy open at all costs
Mark Pitt: PDA members feel they must keep the pharmacy open at all costs

Seven percent of Boots pharmacists surveyed by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) have reported closing a pharmacy during normal opening hours in the last two years.

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.”

Boots responds

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”.

Have you closed a pharmacy due to patient safety concerns?

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

These results are not a surprise. Any employee ringing up the Area Manager to say they are shutting the pharmacy can expect to have several things "reminded" to them - patient care, breach of NHS Contractual obligations (as confirmed by their own PR statement in this article). If that's not fear-mongering, God knows what is. Begs the question, that when your pharmacist rings to tell you that staffing levels are dangerously low/workload is heavy - why do these managers not believe it? Why not instead support the pharmacist in addressing this? Oh sorry, that's in a different timleine, on a different planet.......!!

Grumpy Pharm, Community pharmacist

So 7% of a 7% sample. You really need to do better with the stats guys this is embarrassing.

JOHN MUNDAY, Locum pharmacist

PDA currently represents a third of all Boots Pharmacists. They will have polled about 2000 or so and of these, 436 responded saying they have closed their branches or at least signed out of their RP role. So 436/ 6300 is about 7% which, in my book, is quite significant.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Do that 7% still have a job?

James Mac, Community pharmacist

Yeah I would have imagined that would be the fastest way to get fired, after giving someone who isn't married to you your discount card

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