View from a community pharmacist

One recent letter summed up so much of what we hear from members across community pharmacy, that we decided to publish it. We have kept the individual’s name and their employer anonymous because we know that what they describe here is experienced by pharmacists working for many different employers across community pharmacy.

Thu 1st November 2018 The PDA

The PDA is always listening to our members and we hear the concerns they have about their work environment.  One recent letter summed up so much of what we hear from members across community pharmacy that, with the author’s consent, we decided to publish it.  We have kept the individual’s name and their employer anonymous because we know that what they describe here is experienced by pharmacists working for many different employers across community pharmacy and this isn’t just about a single instance of a difficult workplace situation.

“I am a pharmacy manager at a large UK community pharmacy chain.

I wanted to voice my concerns about the direction the community pharmacy profession is taking. I feel at my wits end and have absolutely no control over where this career that I love is heading. In short, it is no longer a vocation where the pharmacist can be a healthcare professional, it is a sales job.

After 4 years of gruelling study at university and a year of preregistration training; I was thankfully able to join the GPhC register and finally become a pharmacist, what has my career become? Am I the patient focused healthcare professional that university told me I could be as a community pharmacist?  Absolutely not.

Everyday, and I mean everyday, I am being pushed and prodded by every line manager regarding targets. At least 10 e-mails and text messages to carry out each set target. Medicine use reviews (MUR), new medicine services (NMS), EPS sign-ups, over the counter sales and flu vaccinations to name a few. Numbers targets and healthcare businesses being the main priority of my day, not patients. Some of the managers have the audacity to say we should use our professional judgment as pharmacists when offering or delivering these services. Only to then go on to send pushy text messages regarding our mandatory completion rate of each service, and by the way ‘zero MURs per day is not allowed’.

As a community pharmacist and a human being I do not get a break, to achieve an actual break means partly shutting the pharmacy and not being the responsible pharmacist anymore. This is literally unheard of. This is the same for most of my pharmacist friends and colleagues. We have accepted that we do not take breaks, however long our shift is. It just seems to be getting worse and worse at an alarming rate.

Yesterday I had a phone conversation with my manager suggesting I work without a colleague for 2hrs in the morning and 1hr in the evening, ‘cost cutting measures’.

This would mean one person, the pharmacist, running the whole pharmacy on a daily basis for 3hrs by themselves, being accountable for everything, whilst dispensing prescriptions, checking medication, giving advice, selling products, answering the phone, putting the delivery away, date and stock checking; to name a few things that happen behind the scenes in a pharmacy. Running the pharmacy by yourself as a pharmacist happens on occasion, a colleague may be sick or late or some other unforeseen circumstance. But to plan this in as my daily routine would be actual madness in-terms of the potential impact on patient safety and also ultimately the impact on the pharmacist.

I must as a pharmacist take some accountability for the things that are happening and the direction we are heading in. When the initial push came for service provision it was an ever so gentle shove, ‘provide this service to patients, they’ll benefit from it and we’ll get paid for something we already do as pharmacists’. That sounded fair, we give the patient what they need and we get paid, a win-win situation.

Then more and more services were added on with targets to aim for. I’ll be honest, it was sold to us as ‘the pharmacist will be a more clinical role, the first port of call for patients’. This sounded fantastic, this is what I wanted when I sat studying late into the night at university. I wanted to empower patients to take charge of their health and be accessible at the centre of the community to every everyone. I wanted to be clinical without being a doctor or a nurse or work in a hospital. I did study medicine for three years but chose pharmacy as my vocation, and for this I am getting ‘polite reminders’ about targets.

I understand that pharmacy is a healthcare business but why is it being allowed by the government and NHS to become monopolised by the huge pharmacy chains where business is all it is?

As a healthcare professional I am no longer respected by the community or my employer. I am deeply saddened and very close to giving up my dream job because the dream is quickly becoming a nightmare where I have to go against my morals to keep my job. I do not know how to take back control of my job of being a community healthcare professional.

As healthcare professionals pharmacists have been left by the curb side. We’re not the respected profession we are in other countries I’ve visited, and we’re used by our employers to achieve targets. We’re not fulfilling our potential as a workforce, to actually benefit the community and lessen the NHS burden.

I am still waiting at my pharmacy counter to help anyone who I can, but I’m not sure I’ll be there for long.”


It is this sort of experience that encouraged pharmacists to come together and form the PDA and then as so much of this relates to the attitude and actions employers, to form the PDA Union as the independent trade union for pharmacists in the UK.

So what is the PDA doing about this?

We’re doing a lot more too, but above all else, we have created an organisation exclusively for pharmacists making sure the voice of individual pharmacists on issues like this will never be silenced.

Standing together as the PDA pharmacists can be sure that we can be united as a profession in making change happen, however long it takes and whatever is necessary to do so.

If you are a pharmacist but aren’t already a part of the PDA, you can join us here: https://www.the-pda.org/join/

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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