Josh Miller – Pharmacy student
It was no surprise when BBC statistics stated that over 54% of surveyed officer workers regularly worked through their lunch hour. I can only imagine that this percentage is higher within pharmacists. Speaking from my experience working within a community pharmacy I have rarely seen a pharmacist take an entire (entitled) hour, and it’s becoming more regular for those to have a “working lunch” consisting of nothing more than a sandwich eaten between checking prescriptions. This begs the question, should pharmacists have protected lunch hours? I must say personally I don’t take a full hour, because I simply get bored, and would prefer to help out, even if that is at a slower pace while checking twitter every so often! With the ever-increasing pressure, and workload on pharmacists, I think it is paramount to take a break, disconnect and remove some of those stresses even for 30 minutes. I am almost positive that this would have a beneficial effect on the pharmacist’s mental health alongside the safety of the patients through decreased errors. Breaks can also be a valuable time to engage in education, similar to the commonplace idea of “Learning at Lunch” seen within our hospital counterparts.
Alima Batchelor – Head of policy at the Pharmacist Defence Association
I believe that pharmacists should receive breaks in line with EU legislation – these rules were set up for a reason! Working non-stop for 10 hours (or more in some instances) is inherently risky because it is unreasonable to expect someone to be working optimally for that length of time. In addition, some pharmacists will be working these hours with little or no support. Whilst there may be some pharmacists who feel that they can work non-stop without a problem, I would possibly question whether that is actually the case. Any locum agency apparently pressurising pharmacists into agreeing to forego their breaks on behalf of employers is pretty poor in my view (as are the pharmacy employers making these demands).
Ben Merriman – Community pharmacy manager
The European Working Time Directive states that a worker working for more than six hours should get a 20-minute break. In community pharmacy, this isn’t only for the health and well-being of the worker themselves but for protection of the people whose care we are responsible for. An overlooked interaction, a missed red flag symptom, a transposed label; all of these things could have disastrous consequences for the people we are here to protect. In a job where the minimum level of concentration acceptable is 100%, a protected lunch break is an absolute requirement for any patient facing pharmacist; the very thought of being forced to be in a position where patient safety is compromised sends shivers down my spine.
David Steele – Community pharmacy locum
I work for some independent pharmacies that close for lunch, which is lovely. Some companies are good at emphasising a 20-minute break. Some customers are fine and some are grumpy. When I first qualified I used to grab a quick bite whenever I got a chance and checked scripts in between gulps. If customers know the pharmacist takes a small break at a particular time then I think that is the best solution. I think we need a small mental break to maintain concentration.I don’t think all community pharmacy companies have designated times. One company posts the 20 minute break time on the door, which is a good idea. There is business pressure to stay open at lunchtime. One of the advantages, I find, with even a half hour closure is that you aren’t short staffed for 2 hours of the day. If you are a locum pharmacist and don’t know the shop then that makes a fair difference. Supermarkets that I have worked for recently are keen that you are available all the time, even if you are on for 12 hours. Some helpful support staff can elongate the waiting time.