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PDA releases 2020 Safer Pharmacies Survey results

Once again, the Safer Pharmacies Survey has thrown into the spotlight the working conditions faced by pharmacists.

Fri 5th February 2021 The PDA

Feedback from members was instrumental in the development of the Safer Pharmacies Charter in 2017 and since the charter was launched, the PDA surveys have monitored safety against the charter standards.

597 responses were received in total from across the sector as can be seen in the infographic below:

No Self-checking

Where pharmacists are directly involved in dispensing, or other processes requiring a high degree of accuracy, a suitably trained and competent member of staff will be readily available in the pharmacy at all times to provide an independent accuracy check.

An independent second check improves patient safety by preventing errors.

Safe staffing

Staffing levels will be sufficient to allow all legal, contractual and regulatory obligations to be met; to meet the workload involved in following standard operating procedures and to carry out other work in accordance with the organisation’s expectations. All staff must be suitably trained and competent to carry out the pharmacy work they are involved in. Year on year improvements in safe staffing levels can be observed demonstrating a commitment to patient safety and staff wellbeing.

Providing enough suitably trained staff improves patient safety, quality of care and service.

Access to a pharmacist

A pharmacist is traditionally one of the few healthcare professionals accessible to patients without an appointment. A pharmacist must be available wherever patients expect immediate access to face-to-face expert advice on any medicines-related matters. The pharmacy owner or employer will meet this expectation by ensuring a pharmacist is available to patients and present in the pharmacy throughout its hours of operation. The data shows a year-on-year improvement in access to a pharmacist, further reinforcing the key role pharmacy can play at this particularly difficult time for the NHS. However, there is still scope for improvement.

Pharmacists are the experts in medicines and must be present to ensure that medicines provided to patients are safe and appropriate.

Adequate rest

pharmacists must be able to take at least their statutory and contractual breaks and rest periods, and additional breaks as required to meet their professional obligations. Pharmacists will be enabled to take these without interruption and will not be placed under any direct or indirect pressure to forfeit.

To keep patients safe, pharmacists must be alert and suitably rested at work.

Respect for professional judgement

Pharmacists will be enabled and encouraged to exercise professional decision-making in the workplace, so that patient safety and professional standards can be placed above any commercial or other operational considerations.

Organisational and other targets must not inhibit professional autonomy. As health professionals, pharmacists put patients’ health first.

Raising concerns

Pharmacists will be able to raise concerns without reprisal or fear. This will be facilitated by a supportive, open and receptive organisational culture. Issues identified will be promptly addressed and robust and enduring solutions implemented without delay.

Concerns at work which could impact on patient safety need to be raised and resolved without delay.

Physically safe

Pharmacists will not have to work in the pharmacy alone and will have access to the necessary support at all times to perform their roles. Risks will be assessed and preventive measures put in place so that patients and staff are safe – and can feel safe. A zero-tolerance approach will be taken to violence or abuse of pharmacists and other pharmacy staff.

Pharmacies need to be safe places for patients, pharmacists and everyone.


We will publish a more in depth analysis of the data very shortly to identify the impact of working in pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
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and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

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