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General Pharmaceutical Council

GPhC will not investigate Boots over claims it put pharmacists under unacceptable workplace pressure

The General Pharmaceutical Council will not investigate allegations that Boots put pressure on pharmacists to conduct medicines use reviews, prompting disappointment from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association.

Boots pharmacy store front

Source: Martin Good /

Boots will not be investigated by the General Pharmaceutical Council over allegations that it placed unacceptable pressure on pharmacists to perform medicines use reviews

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has decided not to investigate Boots over allegations that it placed unacceptable pressure on pharmacists to perform medicines use reviews (MURs), a decision that has been met with dismay from the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA).

Details of workplace pressures experienced by pharmacists working in community pharmacies, particularly at Boots, were revealed in a survey by the PDA and covered by The Guardian[1] in April 2016, leading to questions in parliament. Similar concerns have been reported in the pharmacy press[2] and have been raised by pharmacists at GPhC disciplinary hearings over several years.

Rather than investigate Boots specifically, the GPhC says it recognises “that these challenges are not unique to pharmacy”, and that it will “work with people and organisations from inside and outside pharmacy to examine and understand workplace pressures across the pharmacy sector, including through a seminar to be held in October [2016]”.

This will include meeting with pharmacy owners to determine how they “support their professional staff to do the right thing”.

Mark Koziol, chair of the PDA, says he is at an “utter loss as to the logic of the GPhC’s argument in declining to take action against those responsible for the unacceptable targeting activities within Boots”.

“The GPhC is essentially saying that because the evidence shows that the unacceptable treatment of Boots pharmacists and patients is also happening elsewhere in corporate pharmacy, then no disciplinary action should be taken against anyone,” he claims.

The role of the regulator must be to protect the interests of patients and to underpin the professionalism of pharmacists, he says, not “to appear to behave like an apologist for large business interests”.

Koziol welcomes the stakeholder event but believes it is “far too little and far too late”.

“It is very important that the public and the profession have confidence in the pharmacy regulator and it is difficult to see how an event in October will underpin that confidence,” he adds.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, says: “We recognise that pharmacy professionals working in a wide variety of roles and settings will experience significant challenges in trying to provide high quality care to patients and the public while dealing with limited resources or other workplace pressures.

“It is important that everyone involved works to ensure that a balance is struck that protects and promotes the health and well-being of patients and the public, empowers pharmacy professionals to work with service users to make good decisions about care, and enables companies to pursue legitimate business interests in an ethical way.”

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, welcomes the GPhC’s approach. “At Boots we are, and always have been, committed to developing the future of community pharmacy and promoting the professional autonomy of pharmacists. We will support and participate fully in the inquiry alongside all other invited participants,” he says.

In a statement, the PDA said “a significant number of pharmacists”, including some working for Boots, had been struck off by the GPhC “because they buckled under the intense target-driven culture of their employers and falsified MUR figures to relieve some of the unbearable stress”.

“They are referred to the GPhC by the very employers who have pressurised them in the first place. These pharmacists are never given the option of attending a conference to discuss their misdemeanours,” the PDA added. “They expected more from the GPhC.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) welcomes the GPhC’s intention to understand workplace pressures, but expects the GPhC to “move quickly from words to action”.

The RPS also wants pharmacy trade bodies, such as Pharmacy Voice, and the negotiating organisations across Great Britain to work with employers “to bring about a new covenant between the profession and those that employ them”.

In a statement, the RPS said: “The profession and patients need the GPhC and employers to make the rhetoric of professional autonomy a reality for those that work at the coal face every day.”

Pharmacy Voice, which represents three pharmacy trade bodies, said in a statement: “There is a significant risk that the government’s current approach to ‘reforming’ the community pharmacy sector will serve only to exacerbate the pressures that pharmacy teams are facing, and we urge the GPhC to take this context into account in their review.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201313

Readers' comments (4)

  • That's a surprise !!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Disappointing response from the General Pharmaceutical Council. Addressing the issues through an all parties discussion is fine, but this will only highlight what is already known. Agreement on a way forward will not mean that the application of unreasonable pressure by lower and middle management in pharmacy chains will be successfully addressed. The GPhC standards for registered pharmacies already covers this in standard 2.6, the GPhC should have made clear how their existing inspections look for and identify non-compliance.

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  • money is power

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  • GPhC website states that
    " It is our job to protect,promote, and maintain the health, safety,and well-being of members of the public" The website further states the GPhC should be " dealing fairly and proportionately with complaints and concerns"
    IT DOES NOT say that Pharmacists are excluded as members of the public.
    I would hope that the decision of GPhC not to investigate the concerns of Boots pharmacists could be challenged by a Judicial Review in order to decide whether Pharmacists are entitled to the same protection from GPhC as the public.
    I would hope the RPS may be interested in considering challenging the GPhC on this matter.

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