Why is Boots so concerned the PDA Union will see what’s in its staffing model?

In a recently published decision of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following a complaint about Boots made by the BBC, the company has robustly defended its refusal to release its staffing model. One reason given was that it might be used by the PDA Union in support of the application currently being made on behalf of thousands of Boots pharmacists who are seeking an independent voice at work.

Fri 30th November 2018 PDA Union

In a recently published decision of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following a complaint about Boots made by the BBC, the company has robustly defended its refusal to release details of its staffing model, called “Allocated Colleague Investment” (ACI), to the broadcaster.  One reason given was that it might be used by the PDA Union in support of the application currently being made on behalf of thousands of Boots pharmacists who are seeking an independent voice at work.

Given that the PDA Union might use any such information to defend Boots pharmacists in disciplinary meetings or at Fitness to Practise proceedings, for example in the event of a serious dispensing error, we wonder why Boots are so concerned about what might be discovered.

The award-winning BBC documentary “Boots: Pharmacists Under Pressure? was broadcast in early 2018 and as part of their investigation, the BBC team asked Boots and other major pharmacy multiples for details of the model they use to determine staffing levels in their pharmacies.

Boots biggest competitor, LloydsPharmacy, provided their equivalent information to the BBC; however, Boots refused and so the BBC challenged this through the ICO.  Any pharmacy contractor with an NHS contract is categorised as a public authority and is therefore subject to the Freedom of Information Act because of their role in providing NHS services to the public.  However, as with all public authorities there are exceptions to what specific information organisations are obliged to make public if requested.

The ICO’s decision (see below) ultimately agreed with Boots arguments not to disclose the information even though the company acknowledged that there is public interest in demonstrating transparency, accountability and value for money so that the public can better scrutinise the expenditure of public money on the NHS.

Employees at Boots already know the management keep staffing hours calculations secret from their own pharmacists who are responsible for the safe and effective running of the pharmacy.

Boots pharmacists who challenge staffing levels because of professional concerns tell us that managers inform them that their pharmacy is staffed to ACI levels and they should just accept this.

Mark Pitt, Assistant General Secretary of PDA Union commented:  ”The fact that Boots don’t want their own pharmacists to know how staffing levels are calculated for the pharmacies over which they are held professionally and legally responsible, raises questions about transparency within the company. 

There is nothing to fear by sharing this information with pharmacists, so they can satisfy their professional obligations as set out in regulatory standards. In the meantime, pharmacists will draw their own conclusions as to what it is the company are keeping hidden.”

Read the full ICO decision here: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2018/2553869/fs50724790.pdf

Pharmacists who are concerned about pharmacy staffing levels should contact the PDA Union for advice on their options.

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.

Cookie Use

This website uses cookies to help us provide the best user experience. If you continue browsing you are giving your consent to our use of cookies.