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PDA: 'A number' of pharmacists report severe staff shortages

Mark Pitt: It is very pressurised when you are left without any qualified staff
Mark Pitt: It is very pressurised when you are left without any qualified staff

"A number of pharmacists" have reported having to operate a pharmacy with "no staff", the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has said.

This included a pharmacist who the PDA advised to close the pharmacy for the day following concerns that the lack of staff could impact patient safety, PDA director of defence services Mark Pitt told C+D last week (April 20).

The unnamed locum – who contacted Mr Pitt last winter – had considered closing the pharmacy during opening hours because they “felt that was the safest option, while they caught up on matters and attended to things that were urgent”.

“It is very pressurised when you're left on your own without any qualified staff and you've got 10 people deep at the counter waving their prescriptions," Mr Pitt said.

Mr Pitt spoke to C+D in the wake of an anonymous allegation that a former Sainsbury’s pharmacy is suffering from “dangerous working conditions” since it was acquired by Lloydspharmacy.

Lloydspharmacy told C+D last week that the claim was "concerning...but it is not our belief that there is a broader issue”.

However, Mr Pitt said the number of workplace pressure cases the PDA has dealt with recently “tends to suggest there's a wider problem” in the sector.

Mr Pitt has “personally been involved” with “three or four cases" of pharmacists finding themselves in "difficult circumstances", and his team continue to "advise others", he said.

The PDA is dedicating a "whole strand" of work to the "increasing area" of workplace pressures, Mr Pitt said. However, he would not provide any specific details at this time.

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 provide as much detail as possible, including the relevant town or region.

Have you had to work without sufficient pharmacy staff?

Phil Lawes, Community pharmacist

The regulator is failing in its role to safeguard the public and maintain standards. There is clearly a problem resulting from funding cuts and the requirement of large companies to meet profit targets. Let's see a return of independent pharmacies owned and run by individuals rather than shareholders and directors. 

James Mac, Community pharmacist

Staff costs down = profit up. The occassional dispensing error and customer complaint is just the price the bosses are willing to pay. Think about it: a mistake happens and staffing levels are identified as a contributor, but because you made it, it's still legally your fault and you must grovel before the stat committee and swear it will never ever happen again, not whoever decided not to hire any more dispensers two years ago

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

Is the GPhC is intensionally looking the other way? How can they not be aware of the scale of this problem?

Lucas Perez, Student

Mate of mine opened 4 takeaways.

Each bring in £275/300 a week . You do the maths. 

Lucas Perez, Student



Lloyds/boots have a cartel and that coupled with an over supply of locums means only one winner. 

My advice 


My advice : pay off ya morgage folks and enjoy life...must me more to life than sticking a label on a box.....

fatnose pansies, Sales

The new GPhC standards, which look like they've been written on the back of a fag packet at the cigar club, say pharmacists must 'promptly tell their employer and all relevant authorities (including the GPhC) about concerns they may have'. Whoever wrote those standards should resign, along with the entire GPhC council for approving them.

Does it mean that if you have any concerns, you will have breached the standards if you don't tell your employer AND the GPhC? What if your concerns are ABOUT the employer or the GPhC? You have to put your neck on the block and tell them anyway?

Also, does it mean that you need to tell the GPhC about concerns that you MAY have but don't ACTUALLY have? The list could be endless.

Joaquim Filipe, Locum pharmacist

100% agree. Big companies and GPhC are a joke marriage. If we raise concerns to the company they send someone, some boss, debriefing you on how you have no reasons to complaint but rather should be doing more. They will tell you that they know a pharmacist somewhere who could do what we should be doing.and much more. They will tell us that we are not good enough and will threat to fire you for not being fit for the expected role. If you complaint to the GPhC they will get in touch with the Big company, who again will.come down on you even harder and at the end, the GPhC does absolutely nothing to defend you as that is not their job. So, once again, you loose. In fact, the GPhC is only here to sack pharmacists who, like any Humans, may make an unintentional mistake despite the fact that might have used their knowledge in good faith a billion times before to help and save lives and very often stayed late to ensure things were done in time so patients could receive their medication on time. Pharmacists unfortunately have nowhere to stand. Highly professional people. Competitive in nature, considerate and passionate for the others. Hardworkers. Are forced to take part of their hard earned money to pay someone to cut their heads if they fail because are only Humans.. it's unfair. If we pay the GPhC, this should do (in real world) more than just getting rid of pharmacists - the small fish. They should do something FOR the pharmacists too, like ensuring that if they demand quality and safety for the patients, they also support the pharmacists in having a working evironment with quality and safety... but they don't, really.

Brian Smith, Pharmacy technician

We have all experienced this. I personally called the area managers when i was working at Lloyds branches and warned them when work pressures were serious. Many other staff have done the same. All the major multiples have staffing problems. It's a well known fact. But not one single manager would ever admit it. They ignore it and hope it'll go away. Well it won't and it's getting worse.

I worked at one of the busy Lloyds branches in Milton Keynes some years ago. We had yet another new locum pharmacist. My tech colleague was on holiday and the one counter assistant went sick. I called the area manager. He told me to open. So i had to babysit the locum, do the scheduled dosette boxes, dispense, sort the orders and serve on the counter. The branch was very busy. I didn't get a break for the three days this went on. No lunch....nothing. I went in early just to try and keep up. I was working 9 hour days. Needless to say the new locum didn't return to our branch. I emailed the area manager and H/R warning them about the situation. Nothing was done, no help arrived, no support. This is daily life for a lot of pharmacy staff. But as long as the money keeps rolling in, the multiples don't care. I'm in hospital pharmacy now. Things aren't much different. Role on retirement. 

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