Pharmacists say basic safety standards are not met

The Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) has released survey results that show seven basic standards of pharmacy safety are regularly not being met and is demanding action to protect patients, pharmacists and the tax payer.

Tue 3rd April 2018 The PDA

The PDA are concerned that while pharmacies are allowed to fail to meet these standards, it is pharmacists who are keeping patients safe by putting themselves into unsafe working conditions which places hard working health professionals and their careers into unreasonable levels of stress and risk.

Around 2,000 pharmacists responded to the survey and were asked in their direct recent experience how often the standards detailed in their Safer Pharmacies Charter were met.  For each standard the pharmacists were asked if in their experience the standard was met:

  • None of the time (value = 1)
  • Minority of the time (value = 2)
  • Around half of the time (value = 3)
  • Most of the time (value = 4)
  • All of the time (value = 5)

This gave the PDA an average score for each standard detailed in the charter, with an overall score of 5.00 meaning the safety standard was always met and 1.00 meaning it was never met. The overall scores were as follows:

  1. NO SELF CHECKING                                                             3.28
  2. SAFE STAFFING                                                                     2.85
  3. ACCESS TO A PHARMACIST                                                4.21
  4. ADEQUATE REST                                                                   2.62
  5. RESPECT FOR PROFESSIONAL JUDGEMENT                     3.16
  6. RAISING CONCERNS                                                             2.66
  7. PHYSICALLY SAFE                                                                  3.53

Analysis of the survey (see below) showed significant detailed concerns such as more than half of respondents saying that they had adequate rest or were able to raise concerns less than half of the time.

Responsibility for safety sits with the pharmacy regulator and following the launch of the PDA’s Safer Pharmacy Charter last year a statement from the main UK pharmacy regulator, the GPhC, claimed that “The key points set out in the PDA’s charter reflect a number of the standards that we set for registered pharmacies and pharmacy professionals. These standards include making sure there are enough staff, suitably qualified and skilled, for the safe and effective provision of the pharmacy services provided, that staff can comply with their own professional and legal obligations, and that staff are empowered to raise concerns.”

The PDA has previous raised concerns about the GPhC’s lack of action against pharmacies and highlighted that although it had issued over 3,500 sanctions against individual registrants the GPhC had never issued any sanction for a failure to comply with the standards for registered pharmacies.

Alima Batchelor, Head of Policy at PDA said: “We are disappointed that we have even had to produce a charter of such basic standards, but these survey results and feedback from pharmacists shows why it was needed. Our members are passionate about patient safety however these standards are not something they can directly control, employers need to do more and the regulators need to make sure that they do.

The PDA Safer Pharmacies Charter is already supported by Action against Medical Accidents, the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association, the Labour Party and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW).  PDA are now calling on all pharmacy owners to sign up to the charter and ensure these safety standards are always met in their pharmacy and for the regulator to do more to make sure this happens.

Paul Day, Director of the PDA added: “These are basic things which patients would expect to be in place, yet this survey shows the standards in our charter, which the GPhC acknowledge reflect standards they also set, are not being met. This cannot continue and the regulator must ensure that every pharmacy, on every occasion, is meeting these safety standards.”

Click here to download the survey results

thumbnail of Safer pharmacies Survey Summary

Sample quotes from respondents

“Safer practices will enable us to progress towards putting “patient’s first”, as at the moment if feels like we’re being directed to putting the “business first”

“Great idea. I fully support the idea of having this adopted across the profession.”

“Well overdue. Regulator isn’t doing it’s job to protect patients and by extension pharmacists so we have to act.”

“New legislation to enforce staffing levels will not only increase patient safety but will also reduce tremendous stress levels suffered by pharmacy staff due to understaffing; which should reduce stress-induced illness in staff and concurrently reduce risk to patients via dispensing incidents.”

“Obviously a great idea in principle but good luck getting through to the multiples!”

“Brilliant idea – at last!!”

“Vital! As well as patient safety and professionalism, this is a human rights issue – and as a profession we should be proud of the wider democratic freedoms of our country”

“Excellent idea and long overdue. Big companies should not be allowed to get away with unsafe staffing levels which puts patient safety at risk.”

“The safety of patients, the health and welfare of pharmacy teams, and the reputation of our profession is in jeopardy. The profit-above-everything culture of the big pharmacy chains’ parent companies does a huge disservice to the public, the profession, and those who commission the services we provide.”

“About time we had something like this it’s long overdue. Let’s stand together.”

“I fully support this, something drastic is needed to make safe patient care in the hands of the big monopolies. Patient care should be paramount over figures, market share and profit.”

“Absolutely vital for the health and safety of pharmacists and patients.”

“Pharmacies should be assessed more rigorously for adequate staffing levels as a statutory clinical governance procedure assessed by the GPhC, it is imperative that this happens as companies are not recognising the pressures for pharmacists and their staff on the frontline.”

“Patients before profit.”

“Long overdue and something I had assumed as a student was a standard. Had I known the conditions we would have to work in as a qualified pharmacist I might not have chosen to study it. I am very glad to see this charter being proposed it is something that should have been set years ago.”

“It is about time that multiples are held to account for the dangerous (to patients) working conditions a pharmacist is placed in such as having to work alone with no staff all day.”

“I’ve seen too many patients put secondary to the £. Its time something changed”

“As a profession in high demand at present these standards are fundamental to progress, safety and long standing self esteem.”

“I believe the charter is something that the GPhC should be pushing. However in the absence of a strong leadership someone has to step in and lay down the principles that put patient safety first.”

“This is absolutely vital and would create a change in the profession that is long overdue.”

“All pharmacies (including hospitals) should have a set minimum number of pharmacists to ensure safe and effective practice.”

“The charter seems clear, simple and perfectly achievable by any company that cares for the welfare of it’s staff and patients, not just profit first, safety and well-being an inconvenience.”

Notes to Editor

About the PDA

The PDA (The Pharmacists’ Defence Association) is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to act upon and support the needs of individual pharmacists and, when necessary, defend their reputation. All PDA members are entitled to free PDA Union membership.

The PDA Union is the only trade union in the UK exclusively for pharmacists. It has a certificate of independence and is a member of Unions21 and EPhEU. The PDA and the PDA Union have more than 27,000 members.


For press enquiries, please contact:

Shemaine Rose
PR & Communications Manager
T: +44 (0)121 513 0950

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.

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