Nearly three-quarters of pharmacists would support greater controls on their workload, an AJP poll suggests

AJP recently reported on efforts in the US state of Illinois to set caps on the number of hours a pharmacist can work, and the number of scripts he or she can fill per hour.

Under the proposal script fills would be limited to 10 per hour, non-working breaks would be mandated and pharmacist working hours would be limited to eight hours a day.

Additional proposals could mean that Illinois pharmacists could be required to counsel patients on first-time prescriptions and changes to patient medicine.

The bill was sponsored by Illinois General Assembly representative Mary Flowers (Democrat) following a Chicago Tribune investigation which suggested workplace pressure was leading to failures in counselling on dangerous drug interactions.

The proposals aim to reduce the chance of dispensing errors.

Of course, no such specific proposals have been suggested in Australia… but it appears AJP readers would welcome them.

At the time of writing, the most popular response to our poll, which asked whether readers would support such measures, was “Yes, pressure needs to be limited,” with 42% of respondents choosing this option.

Another 30% said they would support such measures, but that “it would never be enforced”.

Two per cent said they would not support such measures because pharmacists are not overworked, 5% said pharmacists need to be adaptable and 16% said there are more workable ways to limit pressure.

A PDL Professional Officer told the AJP that PDL receives calls from pharmacists “who are concerned their heavy workload could lead to a dispensing error”.

“The stated Pharmacy Board of Australia Guidelines for Dispensing of Medicines volumes indicate 150-200 items per day,” the officer said.

“These volumes should be used as a guide only, because for some pharmacies undertaking more complex dispensing, these levels could be too high.”

“When extra duties are added such as checking DAA’s and performing in-store pharmacy programs (6CPA initiatives) then extra demands are placed on a pharmacist’s time, means and resources and this in turn impacts on safe dispensing levels.”

The officer said state and territory incident statistics have shown a rise in reporting of dispensing errors to PDL during the 2015-2016 period, up by 17%.

“This indicates pharmacists nationwide are becoming more aware of the importance of reporting all incidents, engaging PDL to help them with the process.”

The officer urged members to talk to PDL on 1300 854 838 about incidents “no matter how inconsequential the dispensing error may seem at the time” to take advantage of counselling and advice, or to talk to the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.

“Stress responses vary with individuals but we do experience many pharmacists becoming very distressed over incidents,” the officer said.