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Before the pandemic our pharmacy was already short staffed


Before the pandemic, our pharmacy was already two members of staff short.


One team member has been on long term sick and another recently left for another job. We also have one person self-isolating because they have symptoms. Another team member helps us out but usually ends up doing three days a week. This person has now said that she doesn’t want to do any hours during this time.


Our pharmacy is extremely busy normally. It’s a very fast-paced and stressful environment. We never have ‘quiet times’ and often have to cover other branches who are consistently short-staffed.


We’ve already taken on more work because of the way our local GP surgeries have changed the way they work. It would have been great if they had discussed this with us first.


The changes that we have had to cope with are as follows:


  • Patients can no longer order medication via the telephone directly with the surgery so they come into us and we take to the surgery or they ring us – patients were not aware of this so continued to order in their usual way only for it to be ignored so we then had a period of having to do emergency supplies and inform patients of these changes.
  • Patients come to us when they have new medications or medication changes.
  • Surgeries are consistently behind with prescriptions when patients have ordered so we are continually having to chase them and deal with distressed customers and reassure them we won’t let them go without medication.
  • We ourselves are unable to call surgeries direct, we have to go through the same system as patients so when we have an urgent query, for example, an out of stock for a gold form or other CD prescribing error we cannot sort it out quickly.




We are already up to capacity so can’t take on any more deliveries yet we are getting people demanding, not asking, for us to deliver their medicines.


Understandably valid in some cases but we just don’t have the resources at the moment. However, people are being abusive about this even when we are doing our best to make alternative suggestions. The government needs to make it clear that people are still allowed to go out to collect medication or they need to provide some help


Staying open and for longer hours and open seven days.




How are these hours going to be staffed?


We ourselves have children, partners who also work, older parents and relatives who will need our help. And how will Pharmacy companies be able to afford to pay the extra wages?


Redeploying Pharmacists


From where?


I know we don’t have spare people, even when we were in desperate need in normal circumstances


Impact of Doctors Surgeries and their COVID-19 protocols


The local Doctor Surgeries have stopped seeing patients face to face and then only emergencies we are being bombarded with concerned people.


They are coming for advice and with other health concerns unrelated to the virus. Things they would normally contact their GP about. We had a parent in who had a toddler with a fever who’d been refused at their surgery but were concerned about their child.


On top of this, we have people coming in demanding their normal medication ‘now’ because they have to go into ‘lockdown’ (actual words) or they don’t want to come out again because of the risks, etc.


Surgeries have not made contact with us to see how we could work together to lessen the impact for us both. They are making our situation worse by telling patients prescriptions will be ready straight away with no thought for our workload or staffing levels.


People are not listening to advice and equally, we are not being protected by those in government, they have not mentioned pharmacy enough.


  • Why do they think we have loads of spare Pharmacists and staff?
  • Why do they think that we are immune to getting COVID-19
  • Why do they think we have no people working in pharmacy who are in the vulnerable or at-risk categories.


We have already been supporting the NHS with the work we do day in day out – the more pressure GP’s are under the more work we are under, we have seen an increase in our work over the past year or so (not dispensing but supporting patients) people cannot get through to their surgeries so they come to us and we sort out a lot of their issues.


For me, this has highlighted how little the Government regards the importance of community pharmacy as part of the healthcare system. A lot of assumptions have been made about the current resources and capacity and I wonder if they are even aware of the challenges of community pharmacy before this situation.


And all this while I’m in remission from leukaemia.


Anna Mamwell works in community pharmacy, is a Patient Ambassador & Policy Panel Member at (becoming Blood Cancer UK), is a patient advocate at UCL Blood & Transplant Research Unit (BTRU) and is a KnowAML Ambassador Macmillan NHS Lincolnshire Living with Cancer Co-Production Group. Anna runs a very successful Blood Cancer Blogger which you can view here.

1 thought on “Before the pandemic our pharmacy was already short staffed”

  1. Thank you for this article, same situation at my place of work and the anxiety around short staff led me to get so wrongly angry with my manager. I have now contracted covid and realise the stress I was going through made me direct my anger in the wrong place.

    Look after yourself before anyone else. I hope this reaches the eyes of someone who can eject more help in pharmacy services- especially where you are. May God keep you safe Anna, and remove this virus from humanity very soon.

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