Over 70% of community pharmacists have reported insufficient staffing levels that have an impact on patient safety, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has revealed.

The PDA announced the results of three patient safety surveys it undertook over the last three years at its annual conference on Saturday (30 March) in Birmingham.

The surveys revealed decreasing confidence in staffing levels across the three years, with 72% of 1,482 community pharmacist respondents saying there were not enough staff in their pharmacy to avoid an ‘adverse effect’ on patient safety ‘around half the time or less’ in 2018.

In 2016/17, 61% had shared this view, while this figure was 53% in 2015/16.

Only 3% of respondents agreed there were enough staff ‘all the time’ in 2018 – less than half of the 7% who thought so in 2015-16.


Independents safer?


The results of the PDA's 2018 Safer Pharmacies survey also revealed that 69% of community pharmacists believed they had adequate rest breaks ‘around half the time or less’.

Only 21% of respondents said ‘patients and staff are safe and can feel safe’ all the time in 2018.

PDA policy manager Greg Lawton said that although there were variations in the responses of pharmacists working at different chains, independent and small pharmacies generally did better in patient safety questions.

He said: ‘We found that for each patient safety question each year where there were comparable results, independent and smaller multiple pharmacies fared better than the large multiples.’


Whistleblowing without fear?


The data showed that in 2018, 8% of community pharmacists felt they were able to raise concerns without fear all the time, while 72% said they felt this way 'around half the time or less'.

Speaking at the conference, the PDA’s director of defence services Mark Pitt said there is a ‘widespread ignorance and lack of understanding’ about whistleblowing in the sector.

He added that most workplace policies were ‘employer-friendly’ and that the PDA hoped to be able to work with organisations to ‘improve the balance in rules and procedures’.

Delegates were provided with a training session on how to raise concerns with an employer, delivered by an advisor from whistleblowing charity Protect.