‘Up to 500 scripts per day’: Pharmacists under pressure


Extreme workloads are often a contributing factor to pharmacist errors occurring – with numbers of complaints rising, warns Pharmacy Council of NSW

There is a continued rising trend in the number of complaints and notifications being made against pharmacists, says Stuart Ludington, president of the Pharmacy Council of NSW.

“The serious nature of many of these complaints has resulted in an alarming number of pharmacists either being suspended from practice, or having their ability to practise limited by conditions that have been imposed to protect the health and safety of the public,” he says.

Extreme workloads are often a contributing factor to pharmacist errors occurring and complaints being made, the council warns.

When dealing with complaints, it looks for contributing factors that led to a complaint.

“We find that many errors could have been prevented had the pharmacist responsible for the error slowed down and taken a bit more time in their dispensing process,” the council says.

“We often provide advice to support pharmacists in preventing a similar incident from happening again.

“Too often, we hear about the pressures pharmacists are under with extreme workloads, such as high script numbers (up to 400-500 per day) with only a single pharmacist on duty [and] professional services (e.g. vaccinations, MedsChecks) being delivered when the pharmacy is understaffed.

While it is great to see pharmacists expanding their professional service offerings, a quality and safe service cannot be assured without appropriate staffing levels.

The Pharmacy Council of NSW reminds pharmacists, managers and pharmacy proprietors to keep workloads in check and, in doing so, reduce the risk of errors.

Regarding the number of pharmacists being suspended or having conditions imposed, it says: “While this only accounts for a small percentage of pharmacists, it reflects on us all in the eyes of the public.

“If you find yourself put in a situation where something does not seem right then it probably needs to be investigated further before you make a decision to proceed.”

The Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS) have released a publication titled Managing Stress in Pharmacy: creating a healthier working environment in pharmacy by managing workplace stress which includes a range of tips, resources and references for pharmacists to consider when looking at issues creating stress in a pharmacy workplace.

For advice and support outside your workplace, contact the PSS on 1300 244 910 (every day of the year between 8am and 11pm).

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9 Comments

  1. Apotheke
    10/01/2019

    Let us do some very basic arithmetic 12 h hours or 720 mins/500 scripts = 1.44mins per item with no breaks for lunch, morning or afternoon tea or toilet trips. If we take out 1hr for all breaks and reduce working time to 11 hours or 660mins 660/500 = 1.32 mins per item. In effect we are allowing between 1.32-1.44mins to visually scan an item on a script, enter it into the computer, select it from the shelf, rescan to check that the selected item is the same as that entered. Do pharmacists even THINK about drug interactions, contraindications from the patient’s history and counsel the patient and provide printed information all in such a limited time span. Does that leave any time to contact doctors if there is any perceived problem? Pharmacists have commodified the dispensing process and devalued their labor by this crazy race to provide speedy dispensing which frankly is in no one’s interest. Not in the patient’s nor the pharmacists who are stressed and burnout as this is a totally unsatisfactory work environment. What are the various Pharmacy Boards/Councils going to do about it? Nothing pro-active as usual other than writing newsletters and other missives and rapping owners over the knuckles with a limp wet lettuce leaf. The introduction of maximum workloads per Pharmacist is long overdue and please don’t tell me it is impractical when we have such a glut of Pharmacists.

    • Eric Obiwan
      10/01/2019

      The best interest of the board is to increase the registration fee according to CPI right?? Nothing they could do if you have ask them. But reprimand the cheap hard working laboured pharmacists. And for owners they will just fire the disable pharmacists replacing the new ones. Same cycle each time.

  2. Philip Smith
    10/01/2019

    Fine and discipline the pharmacist practicing but not the owner?

    Things won’t change until the owners are held responsible and are suspended and have to sell their pharmacy/pharmacies.

    Easy to say if you find yourself in these situations, where do these pharmacist turn to for real action?
    Owner?
    Pharmacy Council?
    Can Stuart Ludington explain the process and time line for action if a pharmacist was to report this?
    The only number mentioned in the article was the Pharmacist support service.

    500 scripts a day is over $3645 in dispensing fees alone. (Depending on make up of general vs concession and discounting)

    • Apotheke
      22/02/2019

      Nice little earner for the owner(s) who in all likelihood do not work in their dispensing factory. What are the wages for a Pharmacist again btw $30-$35/hr or 12hrs *$35.00= $420 + Dispensing tech 12*$25=$300
      ROI $3645/$720 is a return of 5 times the cost of Labour
      Strikes me the people providing the Labour are being exploited big time by the owners of this Pharmacy.

  3. bakassi
    10/01/2019

    I wonder- what is the function of the Australian Pharmacist Council? As a pharmacist, a foreigner, I find this ridiculous. Why will a pharmacist fill up almost 500 prescriptions? No wonder there is hardly time for patient counselling. Most pharmacists in Australia are always so busy, there is hardly any time for robust counselling on drug use, possible ADR and interaction. (Note: I’ve experienced this several times on my visit to pharmacies in Brisbane). Most look unhappy and lethargic. It’s pathetic and I expected more from a supposedly developed country. Step up your game! Dump the non-essentials! (lipstick, perfumes, clothings, electronics, shoes, laundry products etc). Focus on Medicines only! You will earn respect! Doctors, dietician, nurses, optometrist, physiotherapist do not sell all these. Most pharmacies here, look more like grocery shop than a healthcare centre.

  4. Michael Post
    11/01/2019

    Pharmacy Council of NSW role is now to protect the public and pharmacy owners.
    Disgraceful.

    • Jarrod McMaugh
      11/01/2019

      I think this is a very important point…

      If this pharmacist is claiming that they were responsible for 500 scripts a day without assistance or break, then did the Pharmacy Council investigate further?

      Is it a baseless claim by the pharmacist, or is it an example of unsafe work practices that needs to be addressed?

      Statements like these can’t just be presented and allowed to pass by. Any official body should always make a referral for further investigation (even if it is outside of their remit) when an instance of professional misconduct, workplace safety, or legal issues are raised.

      • Paul Sapardanis
        11/01/2019

        I would imagine the president of the NSW pharmacy council has asnd therefore is happy to have his name quoted in the article. Problem is that workloads are only guidelines which are open to abuse . Further it is up to the pharmacist on duty to maintain a safe rate not the owner to provide adequate and appropriate staffing.

      • Apotheke
        22/02/2019

        Problem is if an employee Pharmacist makes a report and AHPRA or the NSW Pharmacy Council does happen to investigate said Pharmacist is highly likely to lose their job. Their name will be mud amongst Pharmacy owners. They will be ostracized and find it very difficult to get employment. That Sir is why most do not complain we do not protect and reward whistle blowers in the Pharmacy industry we punish them.

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