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‘Checking monkeys’? The pressures of community pharmacy have chained me to the dispensing bench

By Anonymous
Community pharmacist

01 Mar 2019

Working in the sector is hard enough without GP pharmacists denigrating it, writes an anonymous community pharmacist


I’m a ‘checking monkey’ and I’m not proud. Though less of the ‘unscrupulous’, please. The news reported by The Pharmacist earlier this week (27 February) that some GP pharmacists consider community pharmacists to be unscrupulous ‘checking monkeys’ isn’t a surprise to me.

Patient care has gone down the pan while we community pharmacists frantically check scripts as fast as we can. No, I don’t have time to spend time listening to patients talk about their wife who has passed away. They’ve just brought me in the last 10 years’ worth of the dosettes they made me make up and I’m now losing a member of staff to sort dentures from Donepezil. 

There is no time to contact the GP about stock shortages, though when we do, they will inevitably prescribe an alternative that we don’t have in stock anymore. It’s only going to get worse – but we aren’t allowed to tell patients that. Patients expect medication like fast food; we are personally to blame for their lack of responsibility. 

This is not the pharmacy career I was sold. I want to care for patients, but I am too busy trying to keep the doors open. Trying to compete with internet pharmacies, staff shortages, medicines shortages and just trying to get through the day means that we are chained to the dispensing bench. 

Meanwhile, we could be replaced by dispensing robots and in the meantime, there are the locums who are demanding work with nothing more to contribute.

Our clinical knowledge is further mocked by NHS England and a Government that only seems to have a long-term plan for so-called clinical pharmacists. Their lack of foresight has condemned community pharmacy.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for leadership. The GPs have a new contract, but we live in hope/hell waiting for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to negotiate ours. I’m not sure how long my colleagues and I can continue. We feel undervalued and overworked. 

Now, GP pharmacists, don’t be thinking the grass is greener on your side. You are beholden to your GP masters. At least I can retain some independence. You, however, will ‘never be a GP’ and I’m sure they won’t let you forget that.

Where are the GP pharmacists at 11pm at night or on bank holidays? It’s a full-time job, this community pharmacy lark, you know. Don’t decry your former colleagues. You know what they say – if you can’t hack it, become a GP pharmacist.

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