RPS says it will work to improve patient care ahead of allegations in BBC exposé of Boots pharmacy

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has commented in advance of a BBC programme to be screened on 8 January 2018, which promises to broadcast fears for patient safety expressed by pharmacists from high street chain Boots.

Boots store logo

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said it is “ready and willing to help improve open and transparent dialogue between employers and employees” that can ensure high-quality patient care.

The comments come in advance of a BBC programme due to be screened on 8 January 2018, which promises to broadcast Boots pharmacists’ fears for patient safety which, they say, is being put at risk by workload pressure.

In a statement released in advance of the programme, the RPS said: “We recognise and appreciate the real and growing pressures pharmacists face in all settings, it is an incredibly tough time to be working in a patient-facing role.

“We have long campaigned for front-line pharmacists to be empowered by their employers and strongly support the professional autonomy of individual pharmacists.”

The RPS statement says it is in “total support of an open and transparent culture leading to greater reporting and sharing of errors” in community pharmacy.

The statement refers to recent criticisms directed towards the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) accusing it of being “too passive in the enforcement of regulatory standards and of becoming too dependent on organisations defining their own approach to quality improvement”.

The RPS said it was eager to work with the regulator in any way it could to bring about positive changes.

“The GPhC needs to demonstrate how they will improve the support they give pharmacists in raising public interest concerns and change the perception that nothing will change if concerns around staffing levels or other issues are raised with them,” the RPS said.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union published the results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request in December 2017, which showed that the GPhC had never issued a sanction against a company for failing to comply with standards for a registered pharmacy.

The response to the PDA’s FOI request showed that the GPhC had issued more than 3,500 sanctions against individuals on its registers since 2010.

In its own statement issued in advance of the BBC programme, the PDAU said: “We will not see the programme before transmission; however, we believe it will reflect the working conditions for many pharmacists at the largest pharmacy multiple in the UK.

“Those who have the power to improve safety and working conditions in pharmacy will have a choice on how to respond to the issues raised in the programme.”

The GPhC also released a statement before the BBC programme aired, assuring the public that the vast majority of pharmacies were meeting the standards required to provide safe and effective care.

“In the rare cases where things do go wrong, our focus is always on making sure lessons are learned to help stop the error happening again and help keep patients and the public safe,” said Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC.

“We make sure any pharmacy not meeting a standard quickly takes action to fix this. We know this is working well — of those pharmacies who were not meeting all of the standards when inspected, 99% made the necessary improvements in order to meet the standards,” he added.

A spokesperson for Boots said the company was unable to comment until it had seen the programme, but that it was aware of the programme and had provided the BBC with a response.

“Boots: Pharmacists Under Pressure?” is due to be aired on 8 January 2018, at 7:30pm on BBC1.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, RPS says it will work to improve patient care ahead of allegations in BBC exposé of Boots pharmacy;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204201

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