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Boots: Our technicians can help ease pharmacists' workload pressures

Richard Bradley: The role of the pharmacist is much harder than 10 years ago

Handing more responsibility to pharmacy technicians is one answer to relieving pharmacists' workload pressure, Boots' pharmacy director has said.

A combination of developing the pharmacy technician workforce, greater use of automation, and “process change” will help reduce the increasing pressures on Boots pharmacists, according to Richard Bradley.

“I accept as a healthcare leader, it is our job to find a way through it,” Mr Bradley said at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham yesterday (October 8), in response to a question about how Boots is supporting its “struggling” pharmacists.

Pharmacist role is “much harder”

“Fundamentally we have made the role of the pharmacist far harder than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

Pharmacists are having “more clinical conversations” about “more potent over-the-counter medicines”, such as Viagra Connect, Mr Bradley explained. This, along with the NHS’s push for patient self-care means “more people are being deferred to pharmacists”.

If pharmacists want to continue to provide more services and have more patient interactions, “I fundamentally cannot see a way through...without taking an awful lot of the supply process…away from pharmacists”, he said.

“I’m definitely not an advocate for anything that takes pharmacists away from [branches], but I am a real advocate for pharmacists spending more time doing what every pharmacist can do,” Mr Bradley said.

Time to develop “support colleagues”

While Boots has ambitions to have a pharmacy technician in every one of its 2,500 branches, it takes two years to develop a pharmacy technician, he explained. Community pharmacy is also competing with the hospital sector as the pharmacy technician role is “in high demand in the NHS”.

"It is not a tap you can turn on and say: 'I'd like to recruit 500 [pharmacy technicians] today'," Mr Bradley said. "We have to develop [them]."

Benefits of dispensing hubs

“I don’t think we should run away from automation either,” Mr Bradley added.

Around 250 Boots pharmacies are already benefiting from the multiple’s dispensing hub in Preston, he said, and the chain is “currently expanding” that offering to more branches.

The pharmacists in these branches “would never go back and are in a very different place in their ability to deliver services”, Mr Bradley added.

Last month, Boots chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said technology is both “directly and indirectly” improving patient safety in Boots branches.

20 Comments
Question: 
What would help relieve workload pressure in your pharmacy?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

I like the advert for Viagra connect. Most amusing Mr Bradley. Keep up the good work

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

More like ‘Our technicians can help replace Pharmacists’. Remember folks this is Boots. The most immoral, money grabbing company out there in our pharmacy sector. You could’ve worked for them all your life but they won’t bat an eyelid when it comes to replacing you. Just another number to them and I realised that when I did me pre-reg with them. Swore never to work for them again and I never have since!

GPhC what are you doing about this?? Pharmacists can never be replaced and by trying to do so with Technicians you are playing a very dangerous game with patients’ lives 

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

I was one of the many distraught members of staff that was pushed out of my job after 33 years service with the company. It is absolutely disgusting how they have treated peope that have been so loyal.

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

You should be happy you got away from this miserable company. Good for you 

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Why are they suddenly interested in technicians? The pharmacists working in your stores haven't asked for them or did you not even ask them and as ususla just assumed this? All any pharmacist wants is good support staff - dispensers, counter staff and preferably another pharmacist in the larger, busier stores. That will not take 2 years to get, more like 2 weeks!! Oh sorry, I forgot - this is the company that doesn't even want their pharmacists to join the PDA - so why would they ask their pharmacists?!

P M, Community pharmacist

how many pharmacists do pharmacy2u have?

and how many prescriptions items do they do per month?

how many prescription items is each pharmacist checking  per day say 8 hours?

anyone have any answers?

also each pharmacy has to pay a fee to the council to stay on the register.

ie one retail unit one fee .. two units two fees..

how many registeration fees do they collect from pharmacy2u?

anyone ?

 

DSL Pharmacy, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

This might be one answer - although not sure about prescriptions being ‘vetted by Pharmacy2u’s AI’?…

“These machines, alongside seven pharmacists, are doing the same work as 70 high street chemists. Once a GP has sent the prescription via the EPS, it is vetted by Pharmacy2U’s AI to be either assessed by a pharmacist or immediately dispensed with industry leading clinical accuracy by robots that run 24 hours a day.” Source - https://www.wired.co.uk/article/online-pharmacy-uk-pharmacy2u    Promotion Aug 2018

Industry Pharmacist, Business Development Manager

With the cuts happening across community pharmacy, trust Boots to find away to cost cut and replace pharmacists with technicians. I think they've forgotten how they started in the industry...on the back of pharmacists that gave excellent customer service, clinical advice and drove the business forward.

No wonder Boots has such a bad rep with about everybody that doesn't work for them and they are currently struggling to retain talented pharmacists.

John Dow, Advertising

Oh please give me strength. I see Boots is still coming out with the same old rhetoric or should I say "clap trap"

Hadi Al-Bayati, Locum pharmacist

I see the conservative party method being applied again:

Cut, cut, cut, cut, demonise, cut,cut ,cut, demonise, cut, cut

Oh NOW we're investing in you and we're going to help reduce your stress. Look how amazing we are and how much we care about everyone!

Hope Mask, Locum pharmacist

Furthermore how did we get to this level where service fees for dispensing an item has reduced drastically over the years? Does it now take less intelligence and skills to safely dispense a drug? Why on earth does a group of professionals like Pharmacist accept to receive less remuneration for better services when other service providers are getting more for their career. It’s clear Pharmacist are so intelligent in the sciences but lack the financial common sense to see that we are being defrauded of our wages year in and out. 

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Because the majority of Pharmacist are just sheep happy to just go about their day to day business and get walked all over. Until we all come together and decide enough is ENOUGH, we will never see justice and things will just go from bad to worse.

Hope Mask, Locum pharmacist

Long ago the Pharmacist was very well recognised for his skills in dispensing medicines safely with adequate advice. Now the unscrupulous cooperate refuse to tackle the poor remuneration they get from the government but want to turn around to either surreptitiously replace the Pharmacist with a quack dispenser or ask us to dispense impossible volume of work per day. I believe the profiteering big firm have a lot to gain when things go wrong with government remuneration as they can easily support themselves through the dry times with investor funds while the independents fade off. 

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

It’s wasn’t that long ago that Boots were claiming not to recognise claims of excess pressures in pharmacy.

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Well spotted!

Community Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If Boots senior management stood by the rest of Pharmacy and lobbied for better remuneration from the government then there would be no need to use pseudo pharmacists.Realistic remuneration will enable you to employ more pharmacists rather than pushing an agenda to enable less qualified staff to do the work.Or does patient safety take a back seat to reducing staff costs perhaps ?
 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Send that to the GPhC. The public is their main concern so you may get their attention.

John Smith, Locum pharmacist

The reason why so much pressure is exerted on Boots pharmacists is precisely because Boots culled thier pharmacy staff, including technicians, a few years ago. What a cycnical reply from Mr Bradley, that he seeks to ease pressure on his pharmacists by basically seeking to get rid of them. Here's an idea Mr Bradley, forget about technicians, employ more dispensers in your chronically understaffed and unsafe stores, and complaints from your pharmacists will soon fade away. Don't be using the unfortunate situation of Boots pharmacists, created by people like you, to cynically insinuate that Remote Supervision is needed. 

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Fully agree John - as an ex-Boots pharmacist, the change in the staff profile at Boots is stark. All the experienced dispensers and support staff have been replaced with less number of staff, younger and cheaper staff. While I don't condone the young staff - this is corporate greed at its best, and happening globally in every company that is more interested in profits & shareholders as opposed to staff & customer safety. Just a shame that safeguarding organisations (RPS, GPhC) seem to be blind to this in the world of pharmacy!

Interleukin$ Locum, Community pharmacist

I sense your drift however not sure what your issue with being young is though.

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