NPA statement on BBC Inside Out expose Boots: Pharmacists Under Pressure

09 Jan 2018

Overall, the UK medicines supply chain is very safe and there are few errors by community pharmacists in the context of the fact that over a billion items are dispensed each year in primary care.

However, it is necessary always to be vigilant, because medicines have the power to harm as well as to heal.

The BBC coverage highlighted the importance of fostering a learning culture in community pharmacy, which in turn underpins patient safety.  To that end, the National Pharmacy Association makes incident reporting forms available to independent pharmacies and shares the learning across the sector on a regular basis.  The NPA’s Chief Pharmacist acts as the Medication Safety Officer (MSO) for all independent community pharmacies in England with fewer than 50 branches.

Severe financial pressures brought about by government funding cuts in England have forced many pharmacies to reduce staffing levels – whilst the workload for pharmacies continues to increase in line with the growing health needs of our aging population.  The NPA is concerned that it will be harder to maintain high standards of patient care as a result.

Nevertheless, safe supply of medicines and services is a pharmacist’s first duty as a registered healthcare professional and pharmacy contractors must satisfy regulators that staff are empowered to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of patients.

Owners of independent pharmacies are often part of the ‘working’ pharmacy team, personally delivering patient care on the pharmacy front line.  This tends to mean that they are well attuned to workload issues and involved in all aspects of service delivery and safe supply.

It is not for the NPA to comment specifically on the allegations made on BBC Inside Out about Boots, which is not a member of our association.