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Home   »   PDA Union Recognition at Boots   »   Boots Promises and Observations

Boots Promises and Observations

The PDA Union has looked into its files and found previous statements that Boots spokespeople have made about improving conditions for pharmacists.

The PDA Union has looked into its files and found previous statements that Boots spokespeople have made about improving conditions for pharmacists.

The ballot for PDA Union recognition at Boots starts on 4 February 2019.

In January, we published this article (click here) about Boots’ use of anti-union tactics as it tries to defeat the vote and prevent you getting an independent voice at work. John Murphy talked about the behaviours of Boots senior management, including setting up “listening structures” such as the PPP, consisting of management-appointed representatives where the company has no obligation to act upon their recommendations.

Leading up to the ballot, Boots pharmacists have told us that commitments from Boots senior management over the years have either not been met or that any temporary changes are not sustained. Members tell us that there is no reason to believe yet another round of promises will solve the daily challenges they face in the workplace, any more than the earlier ones did.

Here’s a selection of what we found:


Since our second quarterly update sent to you last month…
We’ve already started working hard on improving the way we listen to and communicate with our pharmacists…
We train all our store managers in pharmacy operations.

Boots ‘Pharmacy Update’ newsletter, March 2013, launched soon after Boots pharmacists first sought PDA Union recognition



We will…
• Start the transformation and simplification of our pharmacy operating platform to make it easier and simpler for our healthcare colleagues to provide even better patient care e.g. the launch of Total Care Solutions
• Invest significantly in our pharmacies to ensure we have all that we need to look after our patients
• Review and simplify our pharmacy processes so we can drive greater care and be ready for our new pharmacy systems
• Simplify our store operating procedures – ensuring they are intuitively designed, easy to find and focused on what our people need to know

Boots One Healthcare – Big Book of Let’s Feel Good, May 2014


Boots has a responsibility to ensure that the conditions at store level are in place to allow you to do your jobs properly. We certainly have indications from many of you that these conditions could be improved particularly in terms of overall work-load and stress.
• You have told us that the proper administration of breaks is a key concern for some members.
• The issue of being the Responsible Pharmacist and absence from the store for up to 2 hours is concerning many of you.

BPA letter to members and Boots pharmacists from CEO John Makepeace, May 2014


On Tuesday I, together with several members of the leadership team, had the privilege of joining the Pharmacist Partnership Panel (PPP) to hear first hand from our pharmacists what it’s really like at the moment.
They spoke passionately about the significant challenges you face – including workload, resource, recognition and more.
Personally I found it hard to listen to…

We need more hands on deck to run our pharmacy business. We don’t have enough dispensers and we know there’s too much admin. Over the past two months we’ve recruited over 400 dispensers, but we know that more of our existing dispensers have decided to move on so it still feels difficult.

We’re re-measuring all activity in ACI – particularly services – so that from April it will better reflect what it takes to run a pharmacy nowadays.

My commitment to you all is that we’ll continue to look at ways to reduce workload and ensure that we do everything we can to help you give the best patient care and help us grow. We‘ve already met this week with the BPA and will meet with the PPP next week to talk through our plans.

Karl Crane, Boots UK Director of Stores, UK and Ireland – Letter to all staff, September 2014 (left Boots in February 2015)


Our ACI timing activity will re-base what it takes to run a pharmacy at Boots for the first time in many years and will help us see the size of that challenge… We know that we have to take workload out of our pharmacies. In December and January we’ll look at this. We have to be clearer in how we explain ACI and resourcing too.

PPP meeting review. Meeting chaired by Andrew Caplan, with updates on resourcing from Marc Donovan, 26 November 2014


What would make Christmas even more special? Four of the six responses included “More resource”, “Less workload”, “more time for customers” and “more people in stores”.

Listen up Latest, from Colleague Engagement, December 2014



What would make us feel even better?” Four of the six responses included “more time to spend with customers”, “reduced pressure”, “more people to do the work”, “more time with managers”.

Listen up Latest, from Colleague Engagement, January 2015


As you know, from September we committed to re­measuring all of the workload timings in our stores to ensure they are accurate and reflect the current reality and the expectation Boots has to deliver for pharmacy services. You’ve told us clearly that the way ACI has been managed in some instances has put pressure on what you do and how you do it. We’ve listened and we’re committed to getting it right for our colleagues, patients, customers and business.
What’s happening?
We’ve now completed the work to re­measure workload timings as part of ACI, so we’ve got a really clear understanding of the time and tasks involved to run our pharmacy business.”

Letter for the PPP, drafted by Andew Caplan, Peter Bainbridge, Marc Donovan, Steve Banks and others for Kevin Birch, January 2015


Marc Donovan was the Head of Healthcare HR at the time this document was written.
Steve Banks was the Superintendent Pharmacist before Marc Donovan and left Boots in June 2015.
Peter Bainbridge was the Director of Pharmacy before Richard Bradley, and left Boots in October 2016.
Kevin Birch was the Retail and Pharmacy Operations Director for the UK and ROI before Andrew Caplan, and left Boots in June 2018.


One of the commonest things we hear from members and a big driver of cases is the sheer stress and pressure of working in a Boots Pharmacy, also the increasing complexity of operations. We consulted extensively with the company on this and Stores Director Karl Krane [sic] both recognised the issue and agreed to put a number of measures in place [including an] overall effort to reduce workload.”

BPA newsletter from CEO John Makepeace, May 2015


The overall feeling is that although the overwhelming majority of colleagues would recommend Boots as a place to shop, significantly less colleagues would recommend Boots as a place to work. Colleagues continue to love helping customers, working with great colleagues and our brand. Workload, staffing levels, increasing pressure and management issues are the key things people would like to see improvements on.”

Boots Colleague Engagement – Organisational Intelligence, update to senior management, National Forum and the PPP June 2015


We are not consistently providing the right level of care and experience. We’re losing market share. You’re telling us less workload and/or more colleagues could help to address this.

Autumn 2015 Let’s Connect slides



Three quarters of the total respondents considered lack of pharmacy resource as their biggest concern.

BPA website 01/03/2016 Pharmacist Feedback Survey, based on 600 respondents. This was removed from the BPA’s website shortly after it was posted.


I fully appreciate that such significant changes in pharmacy feel challenging, especially alongside increasing workload and customer expectations, which is why we’re working hard to reduce complexity and workload in our stores and pharmacies wherever we can. Working together with all our teams, we are committed to finding ways to alleviate such pressures, whenever and wherever they occur, through listening, collaborating and where necessary adapting how we work locally to improve the situation. We’re fully committed to continuing to work closely with all of our pharmacists and healthcare teams to ensure they have the support they deserve, especially through changes happening in pharmacy.”

I want to be clear that the following principles will continue to guide all we do in our leadership of pharmacy…

[Principle] 2. Make sure that we continue to reduce the additional demands and workloads of pharmacists wherever we can, and invest to support this

Letter from Simon Roberts, President of Boots, 20 April 2016. Simon Roberts left Boots in June 2016.


I know from the many comments you have given me that workload, resource and capability are continuing to be the biggest concerns that you have in stores at present.
We have challenged the company to carry out a root cause analysis of our pharmacy and healthcare operating platform, to find the right model that adequately resources and funds the future pharmacy strategy agenda.

Paul Robinson, BPA CEO, May 2016

Please note that due to an editing error, the first sentence of this quote was wrongly attributed to Kevin Birch in one of our printed documents. We apologise to Mr Birch and Mr Robinson for any confusion.


Simon’s letter of 20 April referred to three principles that must continue to guide all we do in our leadership of pharmacy…

Principle 2: Make sure that we continue to reduce the additional demands and workloads of pharmacists wherever we can, and invest to support this

As Simon wrote, we know our pharmacies continue to be very busy and, with increasing expectations from patients and customers, the level of work of workload is continuing to increase. So want to share a number of things we’re to reduce workload within our pharmacies

• It’s clear we all wants [sic] the running of our pharmacies to be simpler, at the same time, we also know we’ve introduced lots of changes to our model day through pharmacy simplification
• We’ve heard the feedback asking for time and space to embed properly the changes we’ve made in the last few months, and are going to suspend any further simplification changes until September

• We’re committed to making sure we have the people we need to match the workload
• Our model is independently assessed by a specialist company to make sure as pharmacy changes e.g. new services are introduced or a GP changes the way they perform EPS or repeat prescriptions, it’s the best and safest it needs to be
• On a regular basis, we’ll review the workload model to ensure it is up to date and relevant for pharmacy today

Letter from Kevin Birch, May 2016 (Retail and Pharmacy Operations Director for the UK and ROI before Andrew Caplan, left Boots in June 2018)



Resource not meeting workload – Not getting double cover for pharmacist cover…
Balance of services against items – want to do more but struggle with items workload or resource
Large amount of work to do with SOPs, Professional Standards and audit. Concern over pressure to handle a safe pharmacy – worry that expectations are unrealistic, can we look at frequency?

PPP meeting review 31 January 2017. Joined by Andrew Caplan, Richard Bradley and Marc Donovan.


Boots is holding true to its commitment to continue to fund the workload in its pharmacies

BPA newsletter, May 2017


We again have an ACI pharmacy model that is fully funded

Head of Retail Operations, September 2017



[Boots said that it had] commissioned academic research which, it says, found that pharmacies with higher levels of dispensing staff were associated with higher error rates.

BBC Inside Out, January 2018


I’m absolutely confident that the resource is there to deliver the patient care. I am confident that we have enough staff.

Richard Bradley, BBC Inside Out documentary, January 2018


We’ve also invited the PPP onto workstreams covering key themes from the feedback that you’re consistently sharing [including] workload, staffing and resources.

Richard Bradley, Pharmacy Now, August 2018


Ms Tomlinson had expected Ms Noon to be in attendance at the hearing but, as a result of a shortage of staff at the pharmacy, she had been required to work on the first day of the hearing…. Ms Tomlinson explained that there was no guarantee that the situation would be resolved by the following day.

GPhC fitness to practise hearing of a Boots pharmacist accused of misusing cocaine. Ms Noon was a dispensing assistant who was due to give evidence in person at the hearing.


We’re also revisiting the time standards work, which is our normal process every 3 years to ensure we are up to date and plan to make it simpler and more transparent for you, so that you understand the workload required of you within our stores.

Andrew Caplan, Pharmacy Now, September 2018, launched following the 2nd application for PDA Union recognition

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