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Work breaks should be mandatory for pharmacists

From Mrs C. G. Kellett, MRPharmS

Until about 20 years ago it was normal practice for all pharmacy staff, including the pharmacist, to take a 15-minute break in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and a one-hour break at lunchtime in a part of the premises away from the dispensary.

Anyone presenting a prescription or requesting a pharmacy medicine was politely told to call back later and, most of the time, this was not a problem. Unfortunately, since then times have changed and many people seem unwilling to wait even 30 seconds to be served.

Nowadays most employers expect their pharmacists to work throughout the day without a break, although their counter and dispensing staff do get breaks. GPs, dentists and opticians all take lunch breaks, as do bank managers and solicitors; it seems that pharmacists are the only professional on the high street who does not.

Since the limitation of contract was introduced in 1987, the number of pharmacies has changed little, relative to the massive increase, year by year, of the number of items dispensed. This means that although many more dispensary staff are now employed, the pharmacist has far more work to do, including more dispensing to oversee and advice to give. This ever increasing workload means that we need work breaks far more than we ever did before.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association in its publication “Dealing with and overcoming problems in contracts of employment” ( 720K) refers to work breaks and alludes to the road haulage industry and its mandatory use of tachygraphs. “Breaks for pharmacists are at least as essential as breaks for lorry drivers,” it says. Surely, therefore, it is time that the Royal Electronicjuice pushed for mandatory work breaks for pharmacists.

Celia Kellett

Citation: Electronicjuice URI: 10020407

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