Nearly three-quarters of pharmacies are staffed at safe levels ‘half the time or less’, PDA survey finds

According to a survey by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, 72% of pharmacists said there were only sufficient staffing levels to avoid adverse effects on patient safety around half of the time.

Hand pulling box of medicine from a shelf

Nearly three-quarters of community pharmacies have only been staffed at levels that avoid patient safety incidents for around half of the time in the past six months, a survey carried out by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has found.

Of 1,473 pharmacists who responded to the PDA’s 2018 patient safety survey from across the UK, 71.7% answered “around half the time or less” when asked whether there were “sufficient staffing levels to avoid adverse effect[s] on patient safety” in their pharmacy over the past six months.

Just 3% of respondents to the 2018 survey said there were safe staffing levels “all of the time”.

A similar question on staffing levels was asked as part of the same survey in 2015/2016 and again in 2016/2017.

Since then, the proportion of pharmacists stating that they faced dangerous staffing levels at least half of the time has increased from 53% in 2015/2016 and 61% in 2016/2017.

Results from the full report also noted that a greater proportion of pharmacists — 76% — working for multiples associated with the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) felt that staffing levels were safe “around half the time or less”.

Meanwhile, 61% of pharmacists from “other community pharmacies” answered in the same way.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “Patient safety, and the safety and wellbeing of all pharmacy teams, are of critical importance to the CCA and our members. CCA members make every effort to ensure that their patients, customers and employees are provided with a safe and secure environment wherever they operate.

“Given that not all pharmacies use the same operating model, organisations need the flexibility to set what they believe to be safe staffing levels, based on both capability and numbers. Our members have robust mechanisms in place to ensure staff are empowered to provide feedback, raise any concerns and access support.”

Harrison added that the CCA has been working with the General Pharmaceutical Council on staffing and “are confident that the pharmacy regulator has sufficient capability and powers to ensure that all pharmacies operate safely”.

The PDA survey results also revealed that nearly 70% of respondents said that within the past six months “pharmacists [were] able to take at least their statutory and contractual breaks and rest periods, and additional breaks as required to meet their professional obligations” around half the time or less.

Meanwhile, 72% also said pharmacists were only able “to raise concerns without reprisal or fear” around half the time or less.

Alima Batchelor, head of policy at the PDA, said: “Those who are responsible for patient safety must take note — and as a profession we must collectively exercise one of the fundamental tenets of patient safety: learning from what has gone wrong.”

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The Pharmaceutical Journal, Nearly three-quarters of pharmacies are staffed at safe levels 'half the time or less', PDA survey finds;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206372

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