Survey reveals 'universal worsening' in working conditions

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Survey reveals 'universal worsening' in working conditions

A Pharmacists’ Defence Association report into the conditions pharmacists worked in last year has revealed what the organisation described as “an almost universal worsening” in standards, with the majority of its members feeling unsafe at work and many unable to raise concerns with senior management.

The PDA’s 2021 annual survey on working conditions lifted the lid on falling standards across different pharmacy sectors after three successive years of improvement, prompting the organisation to reiterate its message that pharmacy employers and owners sign up to its Safer Pharmacies Charter.

The report, which was based on 1,337 responses, highlighted concerns across all of the charter’s standards, including no self-checking, safe staffing, access to a pharmacist, adequate rest breaks, respect for professional judgment, the ability for employees to raise concerns and physical safety.

Eight out of 10 respondents said they felt unsafe at work following reports that pharmacy teams had to deal with patients losing their tempers during the pandemic and intimidation from anti-vaxxers trying to dissuade them from delivering Covid vaccinations.

The PDA said 97 per cent of its members reported working for companies or pharmacies with unsafe staffing levels at one time or another and access to a pharmacist was lower compared with previous years.

The PDA said that was likely down to “significant reductions in pharmacy support staff” leading to pharmacists having to sort out multiple issues which in turn meant patients had to wait longer to be seen.

The was a fall in the number of pharmacists who said they had adequate rest breaks all of the time, going from 18.3 per cent in 2020 to 11.5 per cent last year and PDA members also said they were “obliged to self-check much more frequently".

Respect for pharmacists’ professional judgement was on the slide, with 16.9 per cent in 2021 compared with 21 per cent saying they had that all the time at work. Fewer respondents also said they always felt physically safe at work last year compared with 2020.

The survey responses were weighted towards multiples to a large extent, with just four per cent of the 1,337 who responded working at single-branch independents. Boots pharmacists made up by far the largest share of respondents at 29 per cent.

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