Major concerns were raised across community pharmacy in England, Scotland and Wales on frequent store closures, particularly from multiples in a recent Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) regional committees’ meeting.
The association said that it is aware that some locums prefer not to work for some multiples or in certain stores due to their previous experience with that employer.
“Closures seriously have an impact on patients and their access to medications,” said PDA.
It explained: “For example, if a locum discovers a contractor does not adequately resource a branch and therefore the locum is worried about safety, or where a locum has been threatened with a referral to the regulator because they asked for a higher rate, that locum may decline to work for that contractor or in that branch on future occasions.”
PDA members are encouraged to report store closures using the PDA’s online reporting tool.
Below are details of some of the key challenges that were debated at the second Regional Committee meeting of 2022.
High PSNI fees for Northern Ireland’s pharmacists
The regional committee in Northern Ireland noted that PSNI has moved the June and November assessments online this year in collaboration with the GPhC. There was also a discussion around high PSNI fees for pharmacists. Additionally, some members had reported difficulties in accessing the special recognition payment.
“Any members in this position are advised to contact the PDA Service Centre. Members should also be aware that the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting with the GP Federations in Northern Ireland has had to be postponed and a new date is pending,” the association said.
High patient volume in Scotland hospitals
The regional committee in Scotland considered the high patient volume in the hospital sector since a backlog has been created due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were also questions from members about Independent Prescribing pharmacists being asked to work outside of their remit.
In the community pharmacy sector, it was raised that some independent pharmacies appear to be completing additional private services which may detract from the core services to be delivered under the NHS contract.
Locum rates review in North of England
The regional committee in the North reviewed low locum rates, which members believe are resulting in more store closures than in other regions. They also noted the PDA news article on the blacklisting of locums.
PDA members have shared concerns around some Tesco pharmacies that currently have no pharmacy manager, whilst others that do have managers are experiencing increased demands.
Members have also raised issues around self-checking protocols in some Asda pharmacies. Members who have been experiencing these problems have been referred to the PDA Service Centre.
South East anxieties
PDA members have shared anxieties in the South East in relation to primary care pharmacists and the introduction of Structured Medication Reviews (SMR) targets from April 2022. The focus of SMR should be on quality reviews, which improves patient care, as opposed to the quantity of reviews undertaken by a pharmacist.
In the hospital sector, members discussed increasing pressures due to interruptions during breaks, pharmacists having to cover multiple wards, or being given extra wards to cover in short spaces of time, as well as staffing pressures. Additionally, hospitals are struggling to get staff through locum agencies with some trusts being unable to recruit.
Increased pressure on pharmacists in Wales and West England
In Wales and the West of England, issues were raised by members around Well Pharmacy and the increased pressure on pharmacists to carry out more tasks, with more accountability demands placed on them by management in some stores.
Members reported that there was not enough staff or capacity to complete the tasks and that pharmacists were being asked to work across two sites. Members are encouraged to engage with the PDA’s ‘It’s Time to Address Stress’ campaign which looks at the causes of stress in the workplace and provides advice on ways pharmacists can access support and improve working conditions.
“Members needing support with issues at their workplace should contact the PDA Service Centre. Wider concerns about developments or trends in pharmacy can be raised with members’ local regional committee,” advised PDA.