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‘Bullying’ pharmacy chains insist on high flu jab volumes, claims PDA

PDA: Pharmacists who refused to deliver “high volumes of flu vaccinations” were threatened

Pharmacists report being pressured to deliver “high volumes of flu vaccinations”, the PDA has said, highlighting the “brutal cold bullying behaviours of large corporate employers”.

While the flu season has only just started, pharmacists have already reported to the Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) that they are sometimes “required to deliver in excess of 40 flu vaccinations in a single day”, on top of their dispensing work, the union claimed in guidance on delivering the service, which was published last week (September 30).

When pharmacists refuse to carry out these “high volumes of flu vaccinations”, they are in many cases being told by their employer they will be reported to the regulator, face disciplinary action or have future bookings blocked if they work as locums, the PDA said.

Condemning this “reprehensible behaviour of some large corporate chains”, the PDA said the culture of bullying must be reversed from the top, and that the General Pharmaceutical Council must issue guidance on workplace bullying.

“The PDA is issuing this guidance and putting certain business behaviours under the public spotlight – mainly those of the large corporate operators – because it is imperative that certain business behaviours are modified to protect the public,” it said in the guidance.

Responsible pharmacists overruled

The PDA said it has been “receiving worrying and consistent feedback” that, in some cases, the responsible pharmacist is not permitted to decide if it is safe to provide the flu vaccination service and faces having their decision “overruled or subjected to threats of disciplinary measures, often by non-qualified managers”.

Responsible pharmacists working in some businesses with a centralised or online booking system have been unable to “set limits or control timings of bookings”, the PDA said. This is something they must be able to do to guarantee the safety of the pharmacy, it added.

Contractors must not ask the responsible pharmacist to prioritise the flu vaccination service over safely delivering other core services, the PDA added in the guidance.

“The PDA has encountered many examples of this, where corporate owners have specified that dispensing be left for a later date in preference for flu vaccinations”, the PDA said.

Safety a “priority”

PDA director Paul Day told C+D last week (October 2) that the concerns the organisation has received are not limited to one employer, and that the safety of both patients and pharmacy teams “must remain [the] priority before commercial objectives at all community pharmacies”.

However, commenting on the PDA guidance, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today (October 5) that the organisation does not “recognise any of the situations the PDA have described”.

“Our members and their staff are highly motivated and committed to this shared national agenda of keeping as many people as possible safe from the life-threatening possibility of contracting seasonal flu at a time [when it]  could be lethal if combined with COVID-19,” she added.

Pharmacy teams have told C+D that they are already experiencing issues sourcing flu vaccines, following increased demand due to COVID-19.

Have you experienced some of the issues flagged by the PDA in September?

Michael Parker,

Having read all the comments here I'm so very glad I removed myself from the register when I retired from Pharmacy over 2 years ago. Absolutely not tempted to rejoin ever !! 

We’re all doomed, Locum pharmacist

Lots of opinions however the question asked was 'Have you...?' I counted zero replies directly of 'yes'. Maybe the PDA could provide numbers? Evidence based....

Emma Harrison, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

'However, commenting on the PDA guidance, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today (October 5) that the organisation does not “recognise any of the situations the PDA have described”.'

Agree. I cannot speak for national corporates but we are an independently owned pharmacy multiple and we do not bully any of our pharmacists to deliver services. Our pharmacists support each other and they have embraced the flu vaccination service, but we are now short of vaccines. Flu vaccination service is a great service delivered by community pharmacists and our patients value it a lot.

A England, Manager

I am not stating you are dishonest, I trust that you have integrity as a fellow pharmacist. However, I doubt you have a full understanding of whether your pharmacists have realy embraced Flu Vac, and even if you knew they did not, you would never mention it here. To truely learn what your pharmacists think about the Flu Vac, you would have to enagage an independedent group to anonymously collect data from your phamracits, cross reference the data with the daily items and emthadone, etc, and then present you with the findings. Even then the data is at risk of giving you a false impression that the Flu Vac has been embraced. Because people do not want the boss to know.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

By reference to the article, based on submission made by their members, and the conduct and behaviours of the corporate multiples, I am inclined to believe PDA's reporting. The PDA is right to be concerned, as any adverse event caused by the extreme pressure piled upon their members will undoubdtly lead to a rise in claims for negligence.

The corporates couldn't give a hoot, as the RP will face the GPHC, and the indemnity insurers will pick up the claims!

The corporates, with their marketing muscle are well placed to secure a very large percentage of the maket share, and will do so, amassing huge profits, and possibly for the next couple of years because of Covid-19

Ms Harrison's org is exception to the rule!! and sadly a minority in the grand scheme of things.


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I have a feeling, and this is from experience of having worked for all of the multiples except for Rowlands, that you are very much the exception, not the norm. I also hope that you are genuine and not a corporate plant.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I do not support any kind of Bullying or Pressure tacticts on any one.

But, let's just see some facts.

Contractors get paid each item fee, QPS payment, many other additional payments, etc, etc. 

Locums/ Employed Pharmacists get an agreed payment from the contractors for their services (which includes dispensing, checking and any other professional services provided by the Pharmacy)

So, if you demand 60% cut from the £10.58 for each flu vaccination provided or for each MUR/ NMS provided, then this should apply to all the activities done by a Pharmacist. Hence, there should not be any per hour payment or agreed fixed salary, instead they should rather have a contract with the Pharmacy Contractor based on each activity they undertake. Is that what you mean to say? If not then just get on with your work and stop moaning.

Due to these moanings (except for genuine bullying and threatening) that we are losing good services (with high rmunerations) and being slapped with lousy, under funded and time taking services.

A England, Manager

To understand what you are talking about, you need to work for a couple of big multiples and a couple of small mulitples. When you apply for the first job, tell them you want 10% of the cut for each advanced service you provide (60% is cloud 9 and they will say "are you some kind a nut!"). Try the same as locum as well. If you have worked for multiples and corporates as an employee or a locum (as an RP), then I can only assume the job has given you dementia.


Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

You sound like you'd be a pleasure to work for.

I think you'll find that the article refers to vaccinations which are done on top of normal workload and during the normal working hours-with no extra pharmacist help?  In Wales, with the Choose Pharmacy site for recording vaccines, a single vaccination takes nine minutes (yes, I've timed it).  This is for a mobile person who doesn't  need help taking off coats, etc.  Only a pharmacist can record on the site so no other member of staff can help here either.   At nine minutes each, ten vaccines adds an extra 90 minutes onto my working day-time which I usually make up by staying on after working hours.  When you consider that many pharmacies are recording two or three that number each day, that's a lot of extra working time.  Some independents will pay a pharmacist for each vaccine but I'm not aware of any multiples that do so?  I've turned away maybe 200 patients this year as I've learnt the hard way that it's up to me to manage my time and that there will be no extra help coming my way in the shape of an extra pharmacist or even an ACT.  I have a branch manager who supports me in this but not everyone does?  And before anyone asks, our staffing hours are directed by HO so my manager can't do the sensible thing and arrange extra help either. 


Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

N.O., if you read the article properly, it is with regards to extra work in addition to the normal daily workload. As PDA quite righly says, for various reasons such high demand for the vaccinations, is such that a second pharmacist should be employed!!. It is clear that the contractors agenda is to "stretch and extract" as much as possible without any consideration to safe delivery of services, purely for profits. It is clear that 40 jabs per day would generate gross income in excess of £420.00, more than enough to employ a 2nd pharmacist.Of course they will not do that, but rather extract that from the incumbent pharmacist by bullying and harrasment. This happened with MUR's, MAS etc.

In addition to that the RP's authority is undermined!!, which is totally unacceptable under any circumstance.


Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

40 jabs a day you say.  Could somebody tell the time on average each have is supposed to take ?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Across a 10 hour day that's one every 15 minutes, so given each one takes five at least then ten minutes to wipe down afterwards, there is your day gone in a puff of dust and PPE. All the other ESSENTIAL services can wait.....

I am so glad that the point of no return is fast approaching, I'll be off the register come 1st January and I won't have to participate in the fiasco that will be the Covid-19 vaccination programme. I genuinely fear for the rest of you who are still stuck in community when that starts because it will make the flu vaccination season look like a lovely stroll in the park.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

Don't jump ship yet, we have a huge battle ahead of us.!! for the succeding generations.

I am past retiring, but will not give up until the RP regulations are enforced in full without any derogation by the regulator.


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Already jumping buddy! No CPD done and no declaration made, the point of no return fast approaching and I cannot wait. Saves me all the faff of voluntarily removing myself from the register as well.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Ha, you mean it's easier to do that then remove yourself from the register? That's amazing.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

As per the article, 40 is reported by the PDA members, and from what i have heard on the grapevine, and also from other store managers, this is the figure the Multiple contractors are targeting. It is believed a 15minute window allowance is made for each completed task., and even less if the Pre-screen forms are completed in advance.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Bullying by the coprorate management will always exist until more power, autonomy and reward is given back to the individual practicing pharmacist. Bullying exists for all services not just the Flu. I have evidence of relentless emails and target setting from management of the Common Ailments Scheme in Wales- where patients are pounced upon by pharmacy staff when they go to buy a product OTC and told they could get that 'for free' under the common ailments service. I'm pretty sure this is not what the service was designed for. It was commisioned by the NHS for people who would have otherwise gone to a GP for treatment. The relentless target driven and exploitative attitude of community pharmacy multiples will ruin services like this. The service should be driven by the needs of the patient. We a are meant to be promoting self-care and not encouraging people to get things 'for free' if they are willing to pay.

The amount of services that pharmacists are pressurised into doing whilst they also have to juggle all the other dispensing, checking, queries, otc advice, running of the pharmacy is absolutely ridiculous and has runied and will continue to ruin the mental health of our fellow pharmacists and teams. Large mulitiples are already cutting staff on the ground, with many choosing to heavily invest in digital and hub and spoke pharmacy. What's left is pharmacy teams too thin on the ground to provide a safe and effective service, with poor morale and a bleak future. The GPhC will do nothing of substance or action to back you up. PDA is the only pharmacy organisation I know with any cajones. Get out while you can or move to a decent pharmacy who look after their staff and put patients before profits!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Pass your evidence on to the relevant authorities as well as the national press.

A man/ woman after my own heart!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I do like your not-so-accidental mis-spelling of 'corporate'. Says it all really.

I hate to say it, but my long established pessimism seems to have rubbed off on you. You used to think pharmacy had a future while I didn't. I'm sorry if that's the case.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

haha sorry but when I'm ranting it's hard to keep my spelling up to your standards! Pharmacists have an exciting future but I believe Community Pharmacy in its current form doesn't. I thought you'd turned the corner re pessiimismimsm!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

No. I think coprorate sums them up perfectly - the prefix copro- referring to......

My pessiminsmnfhttbhcuu'#[oidsvij, towards pharmacy is the same because I'm out come Jan 1st but I'm feeling more optimistic about my own personal future, hopefully doing something that I actively enjoy and that won't feel like I'm dragging myself through treacle every day.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

It's the reason I'm back at University, my friend! 

Owen Davies, Locum pharmacist

What will be doing in the New Year?

Good luck.

David Kent, Community pharmacist

A point that seems to have been missed.  If multiples require 40 tests per day then that pays for a second pharmacist while leaving the regulare pharmacist to attend to his/her normal duties.  The pharmacy owner is still well in pocket.  Has anyone looked at their contract of employment to check that flu jabs are covered; if not then refuse without supplementary payment.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Actually, it wouldn't pay for a second pharmacist in reality because we only get a tennerish for each one, £40 per hour at four an hour over a 10 hour day, but then you have to take out the price of the vaccine, which I don't know exactly what it is but I'm sure that it wouldn't leave enough for another pharmacist. Besides the corporates want to extract every last brass bean out of this scheme without any extra expenditure on their part. The only ones who are happy about it are the shareholders. The pharmacists who are actually doing the work can just put up, shut up or go to hell.

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

You have no idea about what the service pays, look it up.

C A, Community pharmacist

Excuse me while I math this -

40x vaccines at £11.83 per vaccine - £473.20

40x £2 purchase profits on the vaccines - £80 (your milage may vary, but the pharmacy will be paid the tariff cost of the vaccine, and in previous years there were discounts to be had. Don't know about this year).

Total payment - £553.20 - 10x Locum at £20/hr = £353.20

Oh teh humanity! How could you afford to employ an extra pharmacist?

The next thing corporations will be saying is that off-site vaccination clinics aren't worth it, when you can get £200 towards room rental and £200 towards "cold storage" (granted a one off). 


Matthew Edwards, Community pharmacist

Look up how flu vaccine is paid for. Then redo that maths


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