Pharmacists are struggling to take adequate rest breaks and raise concerns in the workplace, according to a survey carried out by the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA).
The survey, which received around 2,000 responses, quizzed pharmacists on their direct recent experience of the standards detailed in the PDA’s Safer Pharmacies Charter.
The charter, launched in December 2017, comprises seven commitments that the PDA claims are fundamental to improving patient safety and pharmacy practices. The commitments include a guarantee of safe staffing levels, the end of self-checking — especially in the dispensing of medicines — and adequate staff rest periods written into the working day.
The survey showed that, in the past six months, just 9% of respondents said they were able to take their statutory and contractual breaks and rest periods all of the time. Almost a quarter (24%) said they were never able to take a break and 29% said they were able to take a break only the minority of the time.
When asked whether they were able to raise concerns without reprisal or fear, only 9% said they were able to do this all of the time. Just over a fifth (21%) said they were never able to raise concerns and 30% said they were only able to do so the minority of the time.
In terms of the pharmacists’ physical safety, 7% said the charter’s commitment that pharmacists should feel safe, never have to work alone and have access to support at all times had not been met in their workplace at all over the past six months. Less than a quarter (22%) of respondents said this commitment to physical safety has been met all of the time in their pharmacy.
However, 83% of respondents said a pharmacist was accessible to patients and present in the pharmacy throughout its hours of operation, either most of the time or all of the time.
“These are basic things that patients would expect to be in place, yet this survey shows the standards in our charter, which the GPhC [General Pharmaceutical Council] acknowledge reflect standards they also set, are not being met,” said Paul Day, director of the PDA.
“This cannot continue and the regulator must ensure that every pharmacy, on every occasion, is meeting these safety standards.”
The PDA is now calling on all pharmacy owners to sign up to the charter and ensure these safety standards are always met in their pharmacy.