Just under 6% of community pharmacies in England, Scotland and Wales have failed to meet staffing standards set by the professional regulator.
The Pharmaceutical Journal analysed the 2,010 inspection reports published on the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) website as of 6 March 2020, and found that 117 pharmacies had failed on staffing requirements.
The majority (109) of these were community pharmacies, with high street chains, such as Boots, Day Lewis Pharmacy, LloydsPharmacy and Well Pharmacy, accounting for 19 of them.
GPhC standards on staffing expect pharmacy staff to be “empowered and competent to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of patients and the public”.
However, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said the number failing to meet staffing requirements may be more significant than the 5.8% found so far by the GPhC.
Paul Day, director of the PDA, said 70% of respondents to its latest annual safer pharmacies survey, published on 27 January 2020, reported that there were not enough staff in the pharmacy more than half of the time.
“I think that statistics from the GPhC inspection database do not give the full picture,” he told The Pharmaceutical Journal.
“We meet pharmacists all the time and, for many of our members, when we ask them what the issue is in their pharmacy, staffing levels are brought up regularly, if not as their top priority.”
The GPhC overhauled its inspection programme in April 2019 to include three different types of inspection: routine inspections; inspections triggered by reported ‘intelligence’; and inspections linked to a particular theme.
The inspection reports published on its online database, follow routine and intelligence-triggered inspections only.
Responding to the figures, a spokesperson for Well Pharmacy said it has “rectified any shortcomings identified on the day of inspection”.
The chain said its implementation of hub-and-spoke dispensing has created more “quality time” for pharmacists to spend with patients, but has meant staff have had to get used to new ways of working.
“The comments raised in the inspection reports reflects the period of change our teams have been going through, and we’ve taken the opportunity to utilise this feedback to review our staffing model and planning process to ensure we continue to protect the health and wellbeing of our patients and the public, [as well as to] be able to embrace the new services the NHS is introducing,” they said.
The government introduced primary legislation on 13 February 2020 that would allow hub-and-spoke dispensing between separate pharmacies, which it said would free staff to provide services to patients other than dispensing.
A spokesperson for Boots highlighted that of the 286 stores inspected by the GPhC since it introduced its new model of inspections in April 2019, only one failed to meet regulatory standards.
“Where any standards have been highlighted by inspectors, we’ve worked closely with them to put an appropriate action plan in place to meet those standards,” they said.
LloydsPharmacy and Day Lewis Pharmacy were unavailable for comment.