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Employers’ report into pharmacy workforce challenges does not address their basic responsibilities

A disappointing report from the three major community pharmacy employer bodies ends with nine recommendations for others to act, but fails to include a single commitment about what the employers will do.

Fri 4th June 2021 The PDA

A joint report from the three major community pharmacy employer bodies, AIMp, CCA and NPA highlights a potential workforce crisis that is driven by difficulties in both recruiting and retaining colleagues at all levels, and a decline in the number of people looking to join the pharmacy profession.

The report states that “Reasons cited for colleagues leaving the profession are complex and multifaceted. They include concerns about pay, excessive workload and pressure, inflexible working hours, and a lack of opportunities for career progression.

Of the major factors mentioned, employers are mainly or exclusively in control of all of them, yet the report does not include a single mention of employers accepting that responsibility and committing to improve matters. Instead, the report recommends that others should make changes.

The PDA is the largest pharmacist membership organisation in the UK, the only independent trade union exclusively for pharmacists.  The PDA routinely hears from members about their experience of working in different areas of practice and the contrasts between sectors, including from those who have decided to leave community pharmacy due to the issues mentioned above.

PDA community pharmacy members have faced a sustained period of real term cuts to pay rates and adverse contractual changes, particularly at the multiples, which has reduced their pensions, sick pay and other benefits.  There have been an increasing number of branch closures and a structural increase of non-pharmacist management making decisions about how pharmacies operate.

The PDA encourage community pharmacy employers to recognise the critical part that they play in shaping working environments and fulfil their own responsibilities as a first step to solving what they now publicly recognise as a potential crisis.  The recommended changes to the structural factors are unlikely to create the desired outcome if the basics are not in place.  For example, employers should:

  • Provide better rates of pay and conditions, such as holiday and sick pay, to employed pharmacists.
  • Develop professionally rewarding career pathways and transparent pay policies.
  • Recognise the locum workforce as a valuable and flexible asset to the sector and pay them accordingly.
  • Pay pharmacists for all the hours they work, including whenever they are the Responsible Pharmacist and/or undertaking essential training.
  • Ensure a management culture that respects pharmacists’ professional autonomy and prioritises patient care over short term profits.
  • Deliver safe staffing levels in every pharmacy and adequate rest breaks for all the team.
  • Have zero tolerance of violence and abuse, in both policy and practice.

The PDA is more than willing to work constructively with employers and their representative bodies to ensure the basic requirements above can be put in place, and to discuss the sort of structural changes that the report recommends.


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