Tesco responds to pharmacists' concerns about working alone

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Tesco: At quieter times of the day, there may be fewer colleagues working in our pharmacies

Tesco has responded to pharmacists’ claims that they are left on their own to self-check medicines for periods of the day.

A pharmacy manager working for Tesco in West Yorkshire – who wishes to remain anonymous – has claimed that they are left to run the pharmacy “completely on my own” for up to five hours a day.

The pharmacist claimed to be speaking on behalf of “20 to 25” Tesco pharmacists who share the same concerns, one of whom – another pharmacy manager – C+D has also spoken to for confirmation.

The pharmacist claimed they are left to run the pharmacy without any support staff “from 6.30am to 9am and 8pm to 10.30pm”.

A spokesperson for Tesco told C+D: “At quieter times of the day, there may be fewer colleagues working in our pharmacies, but they will always be supported by other colleagues in store.”

Tesco provides pharmacy services in more than 300 of its larger stores, which have hundreds of employees working alongside pharmacy staff, it added.

“Risks” with self-checking

The pharmacy manager contacted C+D following a BBC Inside Out programme – which aired last month – which investigated pharmacists’ concerns over “workload pressure and patient safety” at Boots.

The programme included anonymous testimonies from Boots pharmacists, one of whom claimed that a lack of staff “often” means pharmacists are forced to self-check medication.

Boots pharmacy director Richard Bradley said at the time: “In quiet times, such as late at night in one of our midnight pharmacies, a pharmacist may check their own work. They have ample space and time to be able to do this.”

Speaking to C+D, the Tesco pharmacy manager said that “serious errors” could potentially occur in stores, especially as “we have to self-check on occasions we’re left alone”.

The pharmacists have “voiced concerns at regional meetings”, but have so far had no luck in changing the supermarket’s procedures, they said.

Tesco told C+D that it “plans carefully to make sure we have an appropriate number of colleagues available to serve our customers”.

“If any colleague ever has a concern, we’d encourage them to speak with their manager,” it stressed.

Tesco staff can also raise concerns anonymously via the supermarket’s independent reporting system Protector Line, it added.

64 Comments
Question: 
Are you ever left alone in the pharmacy?

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

I never work on my own - I'm just so popular I can hardly believe it!

Sh Mustafi, Pharmacy Buyer

THE FUNNYTHING IS: I bet every Pharmacist that’s moaning about TESCO still SHOPS AT TESCO

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Why are big pharmacy companies comfortable posting lies about working conditions? Do they know that there will be no comeuppance because they have some kind of clandestine relationship with the GPhC? Or does it have something to do with the fact that most of the senior people in these companies are not actually pharmacists, so the GPhC simply uses that as an excuse to not get involved?

The whole situation is an absolute disgrace and an affront to people who actually expected their regulator to take care of them. Yes, yes, I know that the GPhC is only mandated to protect the public, as they have often quoted as an excuse to dodge an issue. But pharmacists are being ground down to a stump, which puts the customers at risk.

When will they realise that if the pharmacist exists within a healthy working environment, patient experience can only get better. Less pressure on pharmacists means less errors and less patient harm. But with fewer dispensing incidents, the GPhC won't have much to do and might need to move out of their Canary Wharf offices with the gold plated toilet roll holders.

Graham Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Best comment I have ever read on C&D.

Tom Kennedy, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Okay, looks like this is all getting a little heated, I'd best step in to seperate fact from fiction.  

I need not remind people of the great service that Tesco provides to its customers and extensive support for its colleagues.

The truth is that sometimes, despite a companies best efforts to assist a troubled colleague, there may just be no saving them from their own wickedness and as a result we have stories such as this where a bad person (this Manager) tries to tarnish the reputation of another (in this case the lovely and completely innocent Tesco).

Lets put an end to all this nonsence:

Fact: Pharmacists at Tesco are supported by an extensive network of highly qualified staff at all times during their shifts.  

Fact: If a Pharmacist has a concern about a shift then they may contact the regional manager who will immediately come over to give them a hug and make everything okay.

Fact: All pharmacists are brought coffee from random shop floor staff who just love to show their appreciation for the difficult job that pharmacists do.

Fact: in a recent survey 100% of pharmacy managers at Tesco said they have never been happier with their choice of employer and wish only that the shifts were longer and targets higher.

Fact: Most of the hateful comments on here are being written while sitting in a Tesco Dispensary with nothing better to do, while being paid by Tesco.

 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

It's great that the Tesco PR dept work weekends !

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

LOL. I almost thought that was going to be a serious post.

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the big pharmacy chains, which other sensible countries seem to not permit, were in some way connected with the opening of all these schools of pharmacy. Because it would obviously flood the market and force pharmacists to work for buttons. Everything is all about money in the UK.

Aneesa Halima Ishaque, Locum pharmacist

I would just like to clarify - my shifts are usually around 8-10 hours long and i tend to take my break around 8 or 9 o'clock when it gets quieter. Thats to have lunch/dinner. It is supposed to be 20 mins however becomes half hour in between serving any customers that come. If any Tesco managers are on here please correct me bt I've always had free tea and coffee from the canteen in any store I've worked - in fact, members of staff sometimes bring me one down after their own breaks. Sorry to anyone that has offended!

Sh Mustafi, Pharmacy Buyer

IF YOU WORK A 10 hr shift and branch closed at 2230, you start at 1230 and you break at 9pm, YOU HV GONE AGAINST TESCO SOP !!!!! That means u hv worked 8.5 hrs with no break..YOU ARE UNDER MINING THE PROFESSION, wake up !!!! 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

WOW !! Free coffee !! Sounds like a top employer. Where do I sign up. Is it tesco own value brand or the proper stuff? Just asking

Stephen Hadley, Locum pharmacist

Huh? "free hot drinks from the canteen " Where you working girl?

 

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

If a bus driver is forced to complete his route, which normally takes an hour, in 45 minutes, then guess what will happen?

The bus driver is going to be more likely to crash, because he is under such immense pressure. And when he crashes, customers get hurt!

Not to mention the fact that he/she is far more likely to be short with customers because he doesn't have time for idle chit chat, or for talking to his regulars to ensure that they are ok. And that the bus driver is several times more likely to end up with a mental health disorder due to the repeated exposure to an impossible task, and the stress this causes.

But as long as the CEO can afford his yacht in some exclusive European enclave, and the shareholders are making money, who the hell cares about the drivers? If they leave, just get new ones!

And if a bus driver does crash, the company will blame him. His career will be destroyed but the bus company will be just fine. Absolutely scandalous!

And the organisation which regulates the bus industry refuses to get involved because they only care about the well-being of the passengers, so they spend all their time trying to stop the bus drivers from working after a crash, despite the fact that the current situation is a massive and direct risk to anyone on the bus, who they are mandated to protect. This means they are REACTIVE dinosaurs, not pro-active and intelligent regarding this simple matter.

And let's not forget that in recent years, the driver has been given loads of unecessary paperwork to fill out, whilst he is supposed to be driving. No extra time has been allocated to perform this task. This only increases the likelihood of the driver crashing even further!

Clearly, if the regulatory body actually got involved and attempted to reduce the pressure on the drivers, passenger safety would be massively increased. But they won't do it because the bus company has an army of lawyers who want the bus company to make as much money as possible. So they are scared, and keep concentrating on the drivers to make sure that they appear busy and keep getting paid.

And just what on Earth could make this siuation EVEN WORSE for the drivers? If the people at the top allowed dozens of bus driver schools to open so that there will be massive competition for each and every job, and the companies can get away with paying less than you need to live on, and treating employees with utter contempt because there are people queuing up to take the miserable job.

But guess what? The person who is in charge is a train driver and has no understanding of what you are going through.

Greed, profiteering and outrageous negligence. The people who regulate the bus industry are doing just nicely, thank you very much, and don't take kindly to people stating the obvious about the underhanded tactics and behaviour within the industry.

And the ultimate kick in the scrotum for everyone? The bus drivers have to pay hundreds of pounds per year to be regulated by this body or they cannot drive the bus.

It's total and utter corruption. Nothing less.

Stephen Hadley, Locum pharmacist

As God said to Moses "Keep taking the tablets"

 

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Do you have any tablets which I can take, which make me perceive the UK pharmacy industry as not corrupt? Surely even if you did, they would be CDs and we would both get struck off.

Muhammad Siddiqur Rahman, Primary care pharmacist

https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/former-locum-handed-suspended-jail-term-for-dispensing-error/10882780.article and https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/news-and-analysis/news/parliamentarians-from-three-main-parties-come-out-in-support-of-decriminalising-dispensing-errors/10968178.article

Shadow minister for health Earl Howe called on the major pharmacy multiples to address the issue of pharmacists’ working conditions. He accused Tesco — the company former locum pharmacist Elizabeth Lee was working for when she made a dispensing error that resulted in a suspended jail term — of not accepting its share of the blame. He said: “The risk to the public comes not from dodgy pharmacists, but from potentially dangerous working practices. Tesco seems to be noticeably reticent in admitting that they may have had some contribution to the error that occurred.

Mung Kee Majiq, Community pharmacist

I have worked for Tesco for many years . I can confirm that the reality is much worse than this. There is very little support to no support at all for the pharmacist. I have in the past worked 12-13hr days on my own with no staff support at all. The only support I've had on these occasions has been from a shelf filler that I manage to flag down to  stand guard by the pharmacy for 5minutes whilst I go to the toilet.

When I've approach the store management and ask for basic staff support due to unforeseen circumstances .  They are very unhelpful and tell me all the time that they can not spare anyone from the shop floor. They then tell me to ask all the other departments in the store if they can spare someone and the answer is always 'No!'. Very unhelpful individuals ! My Regional Manager is no better either - always throwing the problem back at me rather than helping me resolve it and always looking to cover his backside first. The company prides itself on its Values - team work , supporting each other,show you care, delivering a great experience for our customers ........ WHAT  UTTER RUBBISH!

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Mung Kee speaks 100% truth. No supermarket department will ever give up staff to help the pharmacy. It's an absolute joke.

Laughable that the senior executives think pharmacy has enough staff when I doubt that they even have to write their own letters!

They wouldn't even drink a cup of tea unless their secretary was sitting at her desk!

Stephen Hadley, Locum pharmacist

I never had any big problems when locumming for Tesco. Maybe I was lucky. I don't think they appreciate what good people they have though.

Aneesa Halima Ishaque, Locum pharmacist

I'm a locum pharmacist in a Tesco pharmacy store right now doing the late shift. I had staff with me until 8pm and will be here alone until 10.30pm. I honestly can't understand some of the comments here. We're a busy store yet all the dispensing has been done. I am just finishing off my salad then will finish off the rest of the checking. In between I serve the odd customer that comes in, and yes will dispense a few prescriptions along the way - they generally tend to be acute items. I've hardly had repeat scripts brought in although they tend to be less than 3 items. Customers will shop around the store and not once when I've been alone has a customer given me grief over waiting times. There is also a waiting area for them to sit. The security guard I have become to know well, he will be wandering the store and so will the managers. If ever I need to visit the ladies I can close the pharmacy and go and have never been reprimanded by any member of staff. I'm also allowed to have as many free hot drinks from the canteen as I wish. I take my half hour paid mental break, which gets interrupted yes, but i continue and no manager has ever questioned me. There have been times where I've had a queue of up to 3 customers at one time but they've patiently waited and then I haven't had any for half an hour before the next bus arrives. I have always had ample checking time and feel confident to run the pharmacy alone (that is only a statement about myself personally - I can't comment on other managers who perhaps may be running pharmacies with higher footfall). Tesco have always paid quickly, the two pharmacy managers have looked after me well and helped with concerns and I honestly have to say I really like working here, and feel sad to hear all the negativity Tesco are receiving. They have had to gain 100 hour contracts to open these out of hours pharmacies and more days than not there is no need to have extra staff in the pharmacy during the very late or early shifts. Independent contractors with these 100 hour pharmacies run the quieter hours alone and somehow do not complain yet when a larger multiple does it everybody has an opinion!!!

Sh Mustafi, Pharmacy Buyer

Aneesa, you should get your self checked out by a dr; you done so much boot licking , you could have cherry blossom poisoning 

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Nice resposnse from Tesco Communications dept. Keep it up. But sharpen up on grammar and punctuation.

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

The wall of text, poor grammar and the blatant brown-nosing. That was not written by a pharmacist, because if you wrote your master's thesis in that manner, you would get chucked out of University.

Hence, you would not be able to become a pharmacist. A supermarket store manager on the other hand.....

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Sorry to disappoint. Standards have likely dropped since you qualified. All and sundry are needed to pass through university to maintain six figure salaries for the heads of these joke 'learning' institutions.

Stephen Hadley, Locum pharmacist

Let's face it. From 6:30 to 9am you get, maybe, one script. From 9 to 10:30pm you get one script. I know about self-checking, but if you can't manage that then you haven't lived the way we did back then. Develope a way of coping. Sorry Mark. Retirement gives a different perspective.

 

 

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Yes, you may get very little business between those hours. However, what would you do if you were presented with an incorrectly written CD script for a palliative care patient whilst you have someone on the phone asking about vegan omeprazole? I have had this happen to me and ended up turning customers away because I was unable to reach anyone on the phone and had to make a professional decision. Plus, nobody had shown me how to work the till, I had not been given the alarm code to shut down, and I had several methadone patients arrive at once (why do they always come late?).

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Can't be that busy or wouldn't have time to read the article plus all the comments and then post a reply. Every store is different; every shift is different - some shifts will be queued out the door, others will be spent wandering about, filling your time with whatever task needs doing (some of them don't actually need as masters to be completed). If a locum takes a booking when they know it will be understaffed, is it not as much their responsibility (as it is the contractor) to rectify the situation? Have any of those in this position, for example, phoned their local inspector for advice? If so, what did they say? Ultimately, it comes down to you as the professional to make the call

Sham Kiani, Community pharmacist

Half hour paid break? Free drinks? How much are tesco paying you to write this?

 

Stephen Hadley, Locum pharmacist

Glad I'm out of this now.

 

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

LOL, my thoughts exactly. And seeing the approach to paragraphs and punctuation in the post, it seems very likely to have been written by someone who does not have a master's degree.

I never had free drinks, I always had to buy my own. And if I was lucky enough to be given a break, it was always docked off my pay.

However I would estimate that I was given a break on less than 5% of my shifts in total. I never had it paid.

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