It is important that the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) does not reduce staffing levels to a “set of numbers” or a “box-ticking exercise”, Duncan Rudkin told C+D in an exclusive interview on Monday (November 11).
“Every pharmacy is different” and it would therefore be “counterproductive for us to prescribe a number, for example, based on prescription volumes, which would risk being very out of date very quickly as services change”, Mr Rudkin said.
Pharmacy owners' responsibility
Instead, pharmacy owners “must think through their service and make sure that they have a staffing plan and resources” to meet their needs, he added.
This, Mr Rudkin said, is made clear in the GPhC’s standards for registered pharmacies, which require contractors to have “enough staff, suitably qualified and skilled, for the safe and effective provision of pharmacy services” and in its guidance to ensure a safe and effective pharmacy team, which it published last year.
“A pharmacy is a very dynamic environment, so it's important that the staffing plans and the way in which teams are organised throughout the day reflect that,” he said.
Inspectors can identify a “number of tell-tale signs” during their pharmacy visits, which are symptomatic of inadequate staffing levels and that the GPhC would not be able to flag by “looking purely at the numbers”, Mr Rudkin said.
“Because they're professionals themselves, [inspectors] can see tell-tale signs, for example, about untidiness or stock that's been left out, [which] can prompt lines of inquiry, which then unearth some of these issues,” Mr Rudkin added.
The GPhC’s standards relating to the adequacy of staffing was the third most commonly unmet standard by pharmacies inspected in April-June, according to GPhC council papers published in September.
The issues identified included: “inadequate staff numbers to cope with the workload; staffing levels not being adequately considered before taking on a new service; and inadequate provision to accommodate planned or unplanned absences”, the GPhC said.
Last year, the GPhC wrote to pharmacy bodies to ask them what steps they were taking to address inadequate staffing levels.
The C+D Salary Survey 2018 revealed that 40% of pharmacists who describe themselves as stressed self-check prescriptions every day, while 32% have to do this a few times a week.