‘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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