Former Sainsbury's pharmacy's alleged 'turmoil' under Lloyds

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Lloydspharmacy: Claims are concerning, but we don't believe there is a broader issue
Lloydspharmacy: Claims are concerning, but we don't believe there is a broader issue

A former Sainsbury’s pharmacy is suffering from “dangerous working conditions” since it was acquired by Lloydspharmacy, according to an anonymous locum pharmacist.

In a letter received by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) in February – and seen by C+D – an individual who describes themselves as a “locum pharmacist” claims staff and patients at a Lloydspharmacy branch in a “medium-sized town” in the “south east of England” have had difficulties under its new owners.

Will Jennings, Lloydspharmacy head of retail operations for Sainsbury’s branches, told C+D yesterday (April 18) the contents of the letter are "concerning...but it is not our belief that there is a broader issue”.

You can read more from Lloydspharmacy’s detailed response to C+D below.

Staff pushed to quit

The letter’s author – who claims to have worked at the Lloydspharmacy in question “on an intermittent basis” – describes the branch as “an accident waiting to happen”.

Staff at the branch “lurch from turmoil to playing catch-up”, pushing “a number” of counter and dispensing staff to quit in the last two months, due to the conditions having “markedly deteriorated”.

The altered conditions under Lloydspharmacy include “at least one, two or three less staff” for any given shift, the locum alleges. “Dispensary and counter staff are demoralised, overworked, stressed, fed up… most will leave."

The pharmacy is “very cold", "noisy" and "woefully inadequate" for the number of patients it serves, the author claims. As a result, there are “endless patient complaints about long queues, occasional errors” and the pharmacy is “multiple days behind” on its electronic prescriptions.

“We have no expectation of change, as not only is no capital development planned, we don’t even have permission to buy envelopes and stamps for sending scripts back to doctors’ surgeries for amendment.”

For the full letter, click here.

Lloydspharmacy’s response

Lloydspharmacy parent company Celesio UK bought all 281 Sainsbury’s pharmacies for £125 million in 2015, with the handover completed in September 2016.

Lloydspharmacy’s Mr Jennings told C+D the multiple had been “surprised” by the letter – which it received last month and has discussed with the PDA – but was “unable to substantiate its content due to it being anonymous”.

“It’s difficult to deal with the issues it raises without knowing the store concerned.”

The company believes it is “not representative of the rest of our pharmacy network in Sainsbury’s stores”, he stressed.

The Sainsbury’s pharmacies were integrated with “very little disruption to patients”, while the rebranding caused “no interruption to colleague working”, Mr Jennings added.

Responding to the letter’s claims of high staff turnover at the unnamed branch, Mr Jennings said turnover of “all roles” in the former Sainsbury’s pharmacies “is in line with expectations”.

“We have recruited [more than] 300 new colleagues to ensure the pharmacies are resourced to the levels we would expect to allow them to operate safely and successfully.”

“When colleagues leave or go on long-term sick [leave], those hours are covered according to the needs of the business and in line with standard practice,” Mr Jennings added.

PDA reaction

PDA director of defence services Mark Pitt told C+D the letter is “a very poor reflection on how pharmacists believe whistleblowing complaints will be handled by the big employers”.

"Pharmacists are so fearful of losing their jobs [or] bookings that they have to resort to anonymous letters to raise safety concerns."

Mr Pitt said he had found the superintendent pharmacist for Lloydspharmacy, Steve Howard, to be “genuinely concerned” by the letter, which he found “encouraging”.

The General Pharmaceutical Council has also “acknowledged” the letter, which the PDA forwarded to the regulator, Mr Pitt said.

The PDA had received reports of “similar concerns” to those in the letter from “a number of members”, Mr Pitt added.

Are you feeling the pressure of the funding cuts?

Have you noticed an increase in pressure at work as the funding cuts have started to 'bite'? Have you been asked to reduce your hours or increase the number of medicines use reviews? Or has a change of ownership affected your pharmacy?

Share your story with C+D by emailing us at this address with the subject "pharmacy pressures". We will respect all requests for anonymity.

Please include as much detail as possible. It would be helpful to include the relevant town or region.

48 Comments
Question: 
Do you feel under pressure in your pharmacy?

Andrew Paxton, Community pharmacist

I left Sainsburys before D-(for disaster) day.  I am eternally grateful for this, as I was the best pharmacist Sainsburys had.  

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

I know which pharmacy this guy is talking about as I have actually had the misfortune of working there myself a number of times recently. Since September the number of staff that have resigned is in double figures!! I worked there prior to the takeover and whilst it has always been busy their new staffing rules have turned it into a ticking timebomb hence why I no longer work there!

M Marmite, Community pharmacist

I think it is clear, and most of us would agree, that it is impossible to Whistleblow about pharmacy conditions and not risk losing one's job in the pharmacy profession, as things stand. I can't see the way round this. Thanks to the original Anonymous writer. Thanks to the PDA for publicising the letter about Lloyds turmoil. 

Despondent Locum, Community pharmacist

Unfortunately everything you read in this article is true. I have worked for Lloyds and it is evident that the changes that these multiples are making in response to 'the cuts' are severely damaging for not only pharmacy staff, but for patients too.

It is turning into a crisis that the GPhC turns a blind eye too as they answer to Boots, Llyods etc. After all, their role is to 'protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of members of the public by upholding standards and public trust in pharmacy.' I can't see them doing this! Can you?

The pharmacy cuts are designed to save the government money without impacting patient care. However, the knock on effect of the government cuts is that employers make cuts to protect their business (staffing hours are cut, more services must be provided, redundancies are made) and as a result patient care and working conditions are heavily compromised. 

Four years at university and a pre-registration training year for what? To not be respected as a profession, to be overworked and severley stressed, to be so understaffed that I constantly worry; have I made an error and will this result in a potential prison sentence?

It is sad to think what the profession has become, how undervalued it is. Most of all it is sad that we, as a profession, have not stood up together against these working conditions.

Ask yourselves this...How do you feel about pharmacy today vs 5-10 years ago? Now, how do you think you will feel in 10 years time?

 

Ultimately, if nothing changes I will be looking for a different career... What about you?

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

We've been asking for change for the last 10 years and we've had it but not the change we want. Pharmacy has been on the decline for a long time from the hub&spoke models to MUR scandals to reduced hours and staff. If anything I see it getting worse, more and more stories are coming out about the multiples, it's only a matter of time until the smaller multiples will have the same issues and we will all be reading about it here.

I say get out while you can, is there any real progression in community pharmacy? the simple answer is no, unless you want to be an area manager in the current climate. And even to get there you have to jump through hoops. There are other opportunities out there.

The profession has become undervalued and pharmacists have just got used to staying behind checking nursing homes, checking scripts, delivering medications and making the profit/loss accounts look as good as possible. 

Rubicon Mango, Academic pharmacist

I remember a few years ago I did a locum shift for lloyds on a friday. It was inside a busy surgery. I walked in and there were two members of staff and a counter assistant. The two members of staff literally left the dispensary to do 'training' and 'mds'. So I was on my own expected to dispense and check scripts myself. Never took on a shift for lloyds again after that, and I hear the same branch has had 14 managers in the last four years, it seems area managers and recruitment lack intelligence in lloyds to perform the job and provide the support.

 

 

 

Honest Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Sadly this report by Thomas Cox is so true, and this branch in the "south-east" is just one of many stores that are feeling this way, but we don't know which way to turn in order to get them to sit up and listen, and address these problems. *

The reason there has been so many new colleagues recruited is because they are having to replace some of the many colleagues that have left (and are continuing to leave) due to this transfer. Surely he is aware of a store (up in the North of England) that has had EVERY single member of staff resign (including the Pharmacy Manager) and leave in the last month? There are so many colleagues on long term sick, and I am not surprised after what we have been through since the 1st September. Have you seen how many vacancies Lloyds have at the moment?

It has been unorganised chaos since Day 1 with no support from anywhere, and it has had a massive detrimental affect on both staff morale and patient care, e.g. We can now only use the wholesaler AAH, also owned by Celesio (surprise, surprise!), and so when something is out of stock stock we cannot try to get it from anywhere else, and the patient has to try elsewhere. This to me is certainly disruptive to patients.

Lloyds haven't done any of the things that they promised they would do during or after the integration, (even including giving staff their bonus holidays that they accrued whilst working at Sainsbury's, and which were part of the TUPE regulations), and when you try to raise any questions or concerns they just ignore your emails, or if you phone head office they are clueless and just tell you the person that deals with that is either in a "meeting" or "not in today". When the pharmacy manager left (along with all of their staff) after repeatedly trying for months to address the problems, they just labelled them a trouble-maker, and made them leave without working their full notice as they said they would be brand-damaging. What will make them sit up and listen to how unhappy everyone is? And do the likes of Will Jennings and Co. honestly not know any of this?!

To be honest I don't think they will care if we all leave, at least that way they can replace all pharmacist pharmacy managers with non-pharmacist managers (like "Louise Smith"), with little knowledge and skills. Also new dispensers will be on the minimum wage, on a Lloyds contract, and they can save money because they don't pay as much as Sainsbury's do, in fact you can earn more on the checkouts in Sainsbury's than you can as a supervisor or dispensary technician at Lloyds!

Unfortunately the way pharmacists / whistleblowers are treated by companies like Lloyds / Boots and the GPhC (i.e. Not supported the way the GMC support their Doctors), means that I am having to write this anonymously, but I can promise you that everything I am saying is truthful, unlike Lloyds, who seem to find it impossible to live by their own iCARE values.

*This comment has been edited to comply with C+D's community principles*

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

Completely understand how you feel, don't let them break you. Keep strong.

Sharon Stone, Communications

If its any concellation "Honest pharmacist" eveyone writes anonymously because  nowadays this profession has attracted so many nasty vindictive individuals who bully those who point out wrong doings and "malpractice" . 

S J- Locum, Locum pharmacist

ANY COMPANY THAT IS SO IREESPONSIBLE - AND HAS BEEN FOR YEARS-  SHOULD HAVE THEIR LICENSES WITHDRAWN WITHOUT NOTICE WHEN THEY ARE PUTTING THEIR PROFITS AHEAD OF PATIENT SAFETY AND PUTTING PHARMACISTS' CAREERS AT RISK BLATANTLY. THEY KNOW THAT IT IS THE RESPONSIBLE PHARMACISTS' RESPONSIBILITY IF THEY WANT/ NOT TO WORK IN THESE CONDITIONS. THIS IS BEACUSE MOST PHARMACISTS WILL NOT STAND UP TO THEM. THEY ARE EXPLOITING YOUR WEAKNESS, AND DO NOT GIVE A DAMN

IT IS JUST AS BAD WITH ROWLANDS. I KNOW OF A REALLY GOOD PHARMACIST WHO COMPLAINED TO THE AREA MANAGER FOR PUTTING PATIENT SAFETY AT RISK AND WAS ASKED TO WORK ON HIS OWN IN A VERY BUSY PHARMACY THAT HAD LOST ALL MEMBERS OF STAFF. HE HAD ALL HIS BOOKINGS CANCELLED.  HIS CAREER WAS ALSO BEING PUT AT RISK IN DANGEROUS CONDITIONS OF WORK

PHARMACIST ARE NOT TREATED WITH ANY RESPECT. THINGS HAVE GERERALLY GOTTON WORSE SINCE THE RESPONSIBLE PHARMACIST REGULATIOS CAME INTO EFFECT, AS THE ONUS OF WORKING UNDER THESE CONDITIONS IS NOW UPON THE RESPONSIBLE PHARMACIST AT THE RISK OF CAREER / THEIR FUTURE BOOKINGS.  

FOR YEARS NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE TO HELP AND SUPPORT PHARMACISTS, STAND YOUR GROUND AND SHOW UNITY,  PLEASE. OTHERWISE NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE. 

PHARMACIST ARE MOSTLY WEAK AND NON ASSERTIVE. THAT IS REALLY THE PROBLEM  ACT PROFESSIONALLY AND ASSERTIVELY AS A UNITED FRONT

WILL ANY OTHER MEDICAL PROFESSION STAND UP TO THIS?

 

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

The problem is one of numbers. If there was a man power shortage, these sweat shop pharmacies would not be able to function because no one would go near them.

You are right pharmacists just moan but there are far too many of us now for meaningful action.

This will not change if the new standards of being polite (body language etc)  at all times in the face of  (increasing episodes) abuse of any nature. I think pharmacists should contact PDA for advice and refuse to sign on if it is unsafe. Your reputation is worth more. 

Some one will be turned into a scapegoat eventually (even face jail in a disaster) while the company responsible for control of premises (which the GPHC does not hold accountable for public safety ) will do a double back flip and say 'nowt to do with us - we didnt ask for 15 low quality MUR and 600 items/25 addicts with one staff'

Mung Kee Majiq, Community pharmacist

The article is a true reflection of the conditions in these sainsburys store. I know what store the locum is referring to in this article. I have also worked at this store and it is as the locum has described. I feel for the remaining (smaller)  team that are there, working under terrible conditions with its new Lloyds owners. They were  more happier and motivated under sainsbury's management than with Lloyds. It is true that LLoyds is giving the existing staff 'the push' inorder to make way for cheaper and fewer staff. On top of this , they also want to cut total hours by 5%. Absolute chaos most of the time. However Llloyds are not the only culprits here. Two Thirds of multiples are heading in the same direction. This is an extremely sad direction for Community Pharmacy and the Pharmacy profession as a whole. I feel for the pharmacy students and newly qualified who have invested tens of thousands to study pharmacy. The future outlook is so bleak. 

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Acquisitions can go smoothly; equally, they can be a nightmare. The issues are mostly about people not liking change and little to do with how good the old boss was compared to the new boss (or vice versa). Changes in processes, different IT etc all add to this stress. Have any of these concerns been raised with Lloyd's directly? Given the amount paid, I would imagine the new owners are keen to make it work. 

Fuzzy Wuzzy, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

Ah they need specifics...ok, go to the store in Luton.  Everytime i've walked through either a pharmacist on their own or a counter staff on their own...no pharmacist to be seen.  Add this to Lloyds want to reduce their staff hours by 5 hours a week and they are 'surprised' by this....absolute joke of a company

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

Is anyone surprised? When I was working for this multiple we all talked about how the takeover was bad for Sainsbury's pharmacy staff  and how they were in for a shock. This article just goes to show how bad it really is. I don't know what the landscape is like for the future but I wouldn't be surprised if other supermarket pharmacies sell out to the traditional pharmacy chains as they are losing money to the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

I know colleagues who are not happy with what is being asked of them and I know of one senior figure who has left because the integration process wasn't what they were told it would be.

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Could be right, yesterday Tesco sold all of their optician business to Vision Express. Bit surprising considering their recent positive year end profit results, clearly cutting costs still on the agenda for some time to come.

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

I think it will happen at some point. The way in which Lidl and Aldi are growing and building more stores around the country coupled with the fact that their products are reasonable and cheaper than supermarket brands may mean reduced profits for the big supermarkets.

Sainsbury's had no reason to sell but Tesco saw their shareprice slump after the accounting scandal a while back, so it would have been reasonable to think that they would consider selling.

Tom Kennedy, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

“genuinely concerned” by the letter.  I think there's something cut from the end of that comment, oh wait here it is:

“I am 'genuinely concerned' that a locum (of all people) has dared speak out about this truely good organisation, an investigation will be launched immediately and all those involved and with knowledge will be brought to performance managed justice".

Got to agree with him, this is clearly all just an excuse to justify not getting enough MURs. 

Louise Smith, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

I can only speak for our store. Since being taken over by lloyds we have found that we have more support from people who are actually tuned into pharmacy and not calling people from pharmacy to tills because alll sainsburys was bothered about was selling baked beans. We have a area network that support each other and a brilliant area manager who will help you no matter what the problem is.  Yes we have more targets and deadlines which have to be met and staff have to work much harder. I think we all had it too easy with sainsburys.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Not sure why this has received so many "thumbs down" - don't the multiple-bashers not like an alternative view?

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Your assumption that a thumbs down refers to the subjective 'dislike' of a post reflects your own approach to discussion. I have always thought a thumbs down to be an objective disagreement about the truth of a matter. Maybe those who have in-depth experience of the Lloyds culture do not believe the description provided accurately represents the greater reality. 

I hope that helps you in your navigation and understanding of other peoples posts. 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Says the man who works for a multiple????!  Perhaps because she is not a pharmacist; therefore not the RP, and can run a mile when things go wrong!!  I would have called her a multiple brainw****d r***t, BUT I WON'T JAMES!!!!   Becasue we don't do personal attacks do we!   Sorry about that !  

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I have worked for both Sainsburys and Lloyds, both for many years over the last couple of decades, and I know who I would rather work for ! Sadly they no longer exist ! 

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Subtlety is not your strong suit I take it? Little tip, setting up a profile to post an unusually positive first contribution tends to give the game away. As does exaggerated praise and sycophancy. 

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Must be the new Lloyds area manager??!!  

Lucas Perez, Student

Grandad to Roy Slater ''You wanna be a bit more careful about your health louisein the last half hour you've done so much boot licking you could be coming down with cherry blossom poisoning''

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Sounds like the area manager responding...

Danny TheRed, Community pharmacist

Obviously poorly performing with sainsburys, shame on you, support was always there

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I always found them an excellent, professional company. 

Chemical Mistry, Editorial

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