The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has backed a recent call by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) for protected learning time (PLT) to be given to pharmacists during working hours.

The PDA said it welcomed greater discussion on development for employees and agreed it was best practice for professional development to be part of an individual’s paid working hours.

‘Such an arrangement can be facilitated through measures such as protected learning time, as suggested by the RPS,’ a PDA spokesperson said.

The organisation added that opportunities to develop should be extended to locums, and expressed the view that an improved level of wellbeing, alongside employers’ support for greater professional development, could have a ‘significant’ role in convincing more pharmacists to stay in the profession.

Training and development is a ‘standing agenda item’ for consultation meetings between the PDA union and employers, the organisation said, adding that its pay settlement with Boots in 2019 secured the commitment that ‘all company-assigned training should be undertaken during working hours’.

The PDA called on every employer with whom it negotiates to agree commitments to provide PLT, which ‘needs to be available for the widest range of learning, development and research related to practice and not restricted to any particular curriculum or provider’.

The spokesperson added: ‘Employers have shown they cannot be relied upon to voluntarily provide protected learning time.

‘So, until such time as regulators, or the NHS as the funder of contracts, require it, the existence of PLT is likely to be a matter of contractual entitlement to paid time for undertaking learning which can be negotiated by trade unions.’

An RPS workforce wellbeing survey found an average of 42% of pharmacists were not given any PLT, with the figure rising to 55% for community pharmacy.

In addition, 48% of respondents identified a lack of PLT as negatively affecting their mental health, and 88% felt they were at risk of burnout.

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