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Home  »   Latest News   »   PDA’s 2021 Safer Pharmacies Survey shows an unacceptable decline in working conditions

PDA’s 2021 Safer Pharmacies Survey shows an unacceptable decline in working conditions

The annual Safer Pharmacies Survey asks pharmacists across all areas of practice to report on their experiences of key safety measures in the workplace. 2021 saw an almost universal worsening in working conditions in pharmacies according to the findings of the survey.

Fri 25th February 2022 The PDA

PDA members were instrumental in the development of the Safer Pharmacies Charter in 2017 and since its launch, annual surveys have monitored their feedback against the Charter’s commitments. Analysis of the 2021 survey results shows that conditions and safety measures have worsened, highlighting the challenging and unsafe environments that some pharmacists are working in.

The Safer Pharmacies Charter commitments cover seven basic areas which should be standard practice whenever and wherever pharmacy work is carried out. These commitments are:

  • No Self-Checking
  • Safe Staffing
  • Access to a Pharmacist
  • Adequate Rest
  • Respect for Professional Judgment
  • Raising Concerns and
  • Physical Safety

Following on from three consecutive years of improvement in some areas, PDA members have now reported:

  • Being obliged to self-check much more frequently during shifts.
  • A significant drop in safe staffing levels, with over 97% reportedly working with unsafe levels of staff at least some of the time.
  • Access to a pharmacist was lower than in previous years, most likely due to significant reductions in pharmacy support staff and overstretched pharmacists having to multitask with activities such as vaccinations and consulting on minor ailments, meaning patients had to wait longer to be seen.
  • The same levels of inadequate rest breaks seen in 2019 were reflected again in 2021, reversing signs of improvement in 2020.
  • Worsening levels of respect for professional judgement, lower support when raising concerns, and much lower levels of physical safety, in comparison to 2020.

8 out of 10 feel unsafe at work

Violence and abuse being experienced in pharmacy is still an area of significant concern with many pharmacists (8 out of 10), feeling unsafe at work. The survey concluded prior to the issues being reported around the availability of lateral flow testing kits and intimidation from anti-vax protests, so any incidents around this will not have been considered in the survey results. The PDA continues to advocate for a zero-tolerance approach of violence in pharmacy and calls upon employers to take a preventative approach by conducting regular risk assessments around staff safety. This also includes calling on employers to take a firm stance on those responsible for subjecting pharmacists and pharmacy teams to violent and abusive behaviour.

HSE Stress and Wellbeing Survey

Keeping patients safe is key to the role of every pharmacist. Too often pharmacists’ health and wellbeing are impacted by the sacrifices they make to maintain patient safety, such as forgoing necessary breaks or working with less support staff than needed.

The latest Safer Pharmacies Survey results are comparable to the results from the Health and Safety Executive Stress and Wellbeing Survey which highlighted major concerns. Some respondents made it clear that they feel there are too many unreasonable demands being placed on them by employers which impact their health and wellbeing at work. Pharmacists at Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Well were asked to complete the HSE Survey. Many responses reported unachievable targets, unrealistic time pressures, and most worrying of all, numerous instances of bullying and harassment.

The results of the 2021 Safer Pharmacies Survey reinforce this by highlighting sub-optimal working conditions in pharmacies, which can lead to intolerable pressure placed upon the mental health of pharmacists.

Impact on workforce pressures

The concerns expressed by PDA members need to be urgently addressed in the interest of pharmacists’ health and wellbeing, and the impact that less than ideal working environments may have on patient care. Issues of recruitment and retention in the community pharmacy sector also need to be addressed as some employers seem to find it difficult to accept that many pharmacists, given a choice, would rather work elsewhere.

By signing up to the Safer Pharmacies Charter and pledging to focus improvements across all of the seven commitments, employers can support improvements in standards and working conditions that will benefit patients, pharmacists, and pharmacy teams. Employers can also change the deep-rooted perception and perhaps even support the future recruitment and retention of pharmacists in community pharmacy in particular.

The summary table that has the results from 2018-2021 can be found below.

The full results of the Safer Pharmacies Survey can be found below:

thumbnail of Safer pharmacies survey 2021 2

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