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Boots Pharmacists may be impacted by hours reduction

Some pharmacists and other staff at Boots are being notified this week of changes to opening hours at their place of work, with local briefings taking place. The PDA are supporting their members to deal with any potential impact on their employment.

Tue 18th January 2022 PDA Union

Boots have decided to reduce supplemental opening hours at some pharmacies to improve profitability.  As staff are consulted about the impact locally on their jobs, the pharmacists’ union, the PDA is focused on supporting members and providing representation to protect their employment rights. 

Community pharmacy is a critical component of the health system as well as the most accessible part of the NHS to the public.  The PDA is concerned that a reduction in pharmacy opening hours will negatively impact on patient access to a trusted healthcare professional.

The NHS encourages the public to visit pharmacies, however pharmacy services need to be available at times patients need them.  As the largest community pharmacy multiple, even small reductions in opening hours when aggregated may add up to a significant reduction of access to valuable pharmacy services across Boots.  The PDA once again call upon the NHS to adequately fund community pharmacy and to ensure pharmacies can open when needed by patients and local communities.

PDA Union is formally recognised to represent pharmacists working at Boots and company management have notified the PDA about these forthcoming conversations as part of the recognition agreement. Most employees in Boots are not pharmacists, and less pharmacists are expected to be directly impacted by these changes than other colleagues.

Other pharmacy team members are encouraged to join an appropriate trade union and the PDA suggest Usdaw is the most suitable union for non-pharmacist store staff.

Changes to individual’s working patterns

Should a decrease in pharmacy opening hours result in a change in an individual’s contracted hours then this could mean their specific role is no longer available.  Those employees will be invited to meet with their line manager who should follow an appropriate consultation process to discuss options.  Within a pharmacy, alternative working patterns could be available, or perhaps others may want to adjust their hours which provides replacement hours for the impacted pharmacist.

However, ultimately these changes could result in redundancies if no suitable alternative role is agreed. The company say they will be working hard to minimise any job losses and the PDA welcomes those assurances.

The impact of any proposed change in working pattern or total hours will depend on an individual’s personal circumstances, for example childcare or other caring responsibilities may mean an alternative is unsuitable.

PDA members who cannot accommodate the proposed working pattern on offer or face being made redundant should contact their local PDA union representative or the PDA service centre for specific advice and support.

The company recognise that where individuals can be accompanied to such conversations, trained PDA Union representatives may be required to support members.  Company management recognise that the PDA Union network in Boots may therefore need more time away from their own pharmacist roles to support their colleagues.

Individuals who are invited to these meetings to discuss their future employment will need to be able to focus on these important and sensitive discussions and are advised to sign out as the Responsible Pharmacist (RP).  Similarly, those Pharmacists who are store managers will need to have the time to properly manage the change process and, for example, the PDA believe it can be unreasonable for a manager to be required to simultaneously hold sensitive formal discussions with team members about their future employment whilst also acting as the RP and be liable to interruption and distraction.

Concerns about providing safe and effective pharmacy services

The PDA have raised with management that there may be local concerns about safe staffing levels.  All pharmacists, when acting as the RP, need to be satisfied that there will be sufficient trained and competent staff with the correct skill mix, to operate the pharmacy safely.

The overall daily and weekly pharmacy workload must be achievable during the revised hours and any suggestion that existing activity can simply be compressed into less hours is unrealistic.  Although senior company representatives have stated this is not the intention, trade unions know that implementation of organisational change by local management does not always match the expectations of decision makers.

Some PDA members have already reported concerns about current resource in the available hours with ongoing challenges of providing a safe working environment for patients and staff alike.  Any further erosion in staffing resource could exacerbate those issues.

Company representatives have been made aware of these challenges and have confirmed that pharmacists who have such concerns must raise the issue with their line manager. The PDA advise members to ensure that patient safety issues are clearly documented, and solutions agreed with the RP are then implemented.

The PDA can provide specific advice to members who are unsure about how to approach safety concerns and we have extensive experience of supporting whistle blowers in the workplace.

What next

Individual personal circumstances and situation at each pharmacy means implementation must be done locally.  PDA members who require specific support should contact their local PDA Union representative or the PDA Service Centre .

Not yet a PDA member?

If you have not yet joined the PDA, we encourage you to join today and ask your colleagues to do the same.

Membership is FREE to pharmacy students, trainee pharmacists and for the first three months of being newly qualified.


Read about our key member benefits here.


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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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