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BBC Documentary “Boots: Pharmacists under Pressure?”

The BBC documentary was broadcast on Monday 8 January; it described serious concerns of some pharmacists working at the company.

Wed 10th January 2018 The PDA

If you have concerns, then we would be keen to hear from you as it will assist us in our forthcoming discussions with the regulator and our future safer pharmacies campaigns. If you would like to share your views or seek advice about your situation in the strictest of confidence, please contact the PDA using the following email address: 

The PDA know that pharmacists make a significant and positive difference to patient care and safety.  You work hard with the resources that are available to you.  However, if pharmacists find themselves working under unacceptable workplace pressure, this could place patients at increased risk. Unacceptable workplace pressure can also damage the reputation of our profession and the trust of our patients.  Such circumstances have the potential to cause stress for pharmacists which can impact upon their physical and mental wellbeing.

The PDA has been raising these sort of issues with the GPhC since its creation. Concerns have been raised by the national media before, when a Guardian newspaper article entitled “How Boots went rogue (” caused a public outcry and widespread calls for the regulator to take action.

The limited response by the GPhC to the Guardian investigation appears to have been ineffectual and these issues remain. In a Freedom of Information Act Access request, the PDA learned that the GPhC has issued 3,539 sanctions against individual pharmacists since its inception in 2010, but during that time it has not brought a single fitness to practise case against a registrant on the basis of a failure to comply with the standards for pharmacies. Nor has it disqualified, removed, or sought to disqualify or remove, any corporate pharmacy owners from the register.

With an apparent lack of regulatory focus upon employers, any change in our view is less likely to happen. The issues will remain for longer with the potential consequences for patients and pharmacists alike and the national media just waiting to shine a spotlight on our profession yet again.

The PDA Union is the only independent trade union in the UK exclusively for pharmacists and we have long been the leading voice, and at times the only voice, talking about tackling workplace pressure.  In response to the experiences of our members we have campaigned tirelessly for greater scrutiny of employers by the GPhC.

The GPhC has stated that setting the right staffing levels is best done by the people responsible for managing a pharmacy on the ground, rather than by the regulator at a distance. We cannot agree with this approach because patient safety must always come before the commercial profits of corporate pharmacy. The approach of the GPhC allows unacceptable conflicts of interests for pharmacy employers; the GPhC cannot distance itself from the one factor that can make the biggest difference to patients.

The BBC documentary has now presented our profession with an opportunity for decisive action and we will be asking the government to reform the regulator as it cannot be in the public interest for the GPhC’s focus to be placed mainly upon individual pharmacists when things go wrong. Since 2010 the GPhC has not set Standards for Registered Pharmacies in rules (which then need to be laid before Parliament), we need to know why this has not been done and we need to ensure that this is urgently addressed.

In December 2017, we launched a ‘Safer Pharmacies Charter’ in Parliament We will be asking the government and the regulator to commit to supporting and requiring pharmacies to implement the 7 points in the Safer Pharmacies Charter which has already secured the support of many parliamentarians. When adopted, it will go a long way in dealing with many of the concerns highlighted in the BBC programme and more besides such as; safe staffing levels, the presence of a pharmacist in the pharmacy, respect for professional judgement and the protection for those who speak out.

The PDA has over 2,400 Boots pharmacists in membership plus many more who work there as locums.  We can assure you that the PDA will continue to campaign to address the real concerns and issues facing our profession. Though the programme focused on Boots, the PDA support our members wherever you work and improvements to the regulatory regime will have wide ranging benefits for us all.

As well as looking at how we believe the regulator should address the issues, the PDA is willing to work with employers to make things better for patients and pharmacists alike. We will continue to raise the issues highlighted in the programme with the company and we sincerely hope that employers will respond in a positive and constructive way.

If you missed the programme, it is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer here:

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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