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PDA urges members to report 'commercially motivated' Pharmacy First behaviour

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PDA urges members to report 'commercially motivated' Pharmacy First behaviour

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association has urged its members to provide it with any evidence they have about the “inappropriate commercially motivated behaviour” of employers in relation to Pharmacy First.

The PDA told members to get in touch in confidence following reports that some companies have threatened to cancel locums’ shifts if they do not sign up to the service, which started on Friday.

There are also concerns Pharmacy First could be used to drive unreasonable commercial targets, bringing back memories of allegations in 2016 that Boots pressurised staff to carry out unnecessary medicines use reviews to generate profits. Boots denied the allegations.

Last week, a group of locums told Independent Community Pharmacist that Rowlands Pharmacy said it would cancel their bookings if they did not declare they were competent to provide Pharmacy First. In response, Rowlands said locums were "responsible for ensuring they are competent to deliver Pharmacy First” and insisted it “may cancel bookings…not that we will.”

It also emerged an Asda area manager told branches in Sheffield and Manchester that locums who refuse to engage with Pharmacy First will be permanently removed from its database on Locate a Locum. Asda told ICP it was supporting its pharmacists “to feel confident in providing the new services” and encouraged them to voice any concerns they have.

However, the PDA said it had seen evidence “of pressure to drive commercial imperatives being placed upon pharmacists.” On Friday, Asda denied claims published on social media that they have set an initial target of 30 Pharmacy First consultations a month for each of its stores and sent a communication to staff telling them “link-selling is key.”

The PDA said although the “vast majority of 3,500 pharmacists” who took part in a recent survey told it the “principle of Pharmacy First was a good idea” and the scheme “deserves to succeed,” it already has concerns about how the service is being approached just a few days after its launch.

“Many pharmacists will remember the profit-motivated pressures that were applied by certain employers for the medicines use review service, which became controversial and was ultimately decommissioned,” it said.

“The Pharmacy First Service in England has been hastily launched, upon an already over-stretched workforce, causing considerable stress to the patient facing pharmacists.

“Some businesses are telling pharmacists who are delivering PFS that link-selling pain relief preparations to patients is key. This may indicate a lack of concern for the patients’ best interests and could be in breach of the regulatory standards for pharmacy employers.

“Whilst some employers have taken a sensible stance by advising pharmacists that they should not sign the competency declarations unless they are content to do so, others have told locums that they will lose their future bookings if they do not sign a competency declaration.”

PDA: We are determined to ensure MUR experience is not repeated

The PDA said it has spoken to the General Pharmaceutical Council about its concerns, which also included the late availability of training and software to help pharmacies roll out the service.

The PDA called on its members “to submit any materials showing inappropriate commercially motivated behaviour which may not be in the patient’s best interests” to help ensure Pharmacy First “is not irreparably damaged in a similar way to the MUR scheme.”

Insisting it “is determined to ensure the MUR experience is not repeated,” the PDA said the evidence it gathers on Pharmacy First “will be used to engage with the relevant stakeholders.”

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