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.