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Why do we exist?

The PDA is the only organisation solely looking after the interests of the individual hospital, community, primary care and locum pharmacist in an increasingly difficult, hostile and employer dominated environment.


Representing the views of employees and locums

In recent times, pharmacy has become almost entirely an employee (and self-employed locum) profession. This is in stark contrast to how pharmacy was a century ago, when more than 90% of pharmacists owned and operated their own pharmacies. Because of this history, the representative organisations that were established in pharmacy all those years ago still exist and they dominate the professional and practice agenda.

The result is that the vast majority of the profession is vulnerable as the working, professional and financial environments are all controlled by the minority – a small number of employers and employer organisations. The PDA believes that this is not in the interests of pharmacists nor the broader profession. There are many ways in which this imbalance affects individual pharmacists. For example, certain employer representative bodies support the concept of P Medicines on self-selection. We suspect that this is because their sales of P Medicines are likely to increase and this will increase their profits; but what about the importance and value of the pharmacist / patient intervention which would be detrimentally affected by any such development? Another example is where certain employer organisations are comfortable with the idea of the two-hour absence under the RP regulations. We suspect that this is because some of the employers use these regulations to require their pharmacists to sign on two hours before they come to work to enable them to operate their pharmacies without having to pay their pharmacists during this absence; meanwhile, the pharmacists are taking full professional responsibility for everything that occurs in their absence. The effect is that the employers increase their operating hours but reduce their costs at the disadvantage of the pharmacist. The one overriding concern that would affect all pharmacists whether they are community, hospital or practice-based practitioners is remote supervision; the plan to operate a pharmacy in the absence of a pharmacist.

The PDA actively campaigns to support the interests of individual pharmacists in all of these matters and many more besides.


Typically, the PDA will handle more than 5,000 episodes of support during the year and this number is increasing year on year. This means that each year, at least one in five members encounters some kind of a work or professional problem that needs the support of the PDA. Pharmacists experiencing work or professionally-related difficulties is far more common than many believe to be the case. Some of these episodes are relatively easy for the PDA to support, needing no more than the provision of written advice or mentoring a pharmacist through an early stage employment or potential professional disciplinary investigation. Some episodes are much more serious, involving several years of lawyer and barrister intervention leading ultimately to a Royal Court of Appeal hearing.

Work related conflicts often take pharmacists by surprise and when they occur, they often cause stress and bewilderment for the pharmacists in question. On many occasions a previously long standing good relationship with an employer is uprooted in just a few short days as pharmacists, now in a position where their reputation is being called into question find that they are dangerously exposed and vulnerable as they experience the effect of the conflict of interests between them and their employer. In the course of a year, hundreds of pharmacists finding themselves in such a situation, but having not previously bothered to become PDA members find themselves exposed in this way and they always regret not having become members previously as there is little that the PDA can do to help them.

Pharmacists generally face conflicts in five main areas which we call ‘The BIG 5′:

  • Civil Action

By patients and other third parties eager to claim compensation. Since the inception of the PDA, owing to an increasingly litigious society, civil claims for compensation have been on the increase. Millions of pounds of compensation have been paid by the PDA to patients claiming that they have been damaged by the errors of pharmacists.

  • Professional Disciplinary Action

Mainly by the GPhC, but other authorities are now also taking on regulatory roles. There has been an increase in the level of action taken against pharmacists by the regulatory authorities, mainly owing to an increased level of patient complaints.

  • Employment Disputes

A significant number of disciplinary and performance management procedures are being instigated by employers against employees and locums. More than 50% of all legal support episodes offered to pharmacists by the PDA involve employees and locums requiring support because they have been handled unfairly, harshly or illegally by their employers. As a result, more than £1 million pounds of compensation has already been successfully claimed from employers by the PDA on behalf of members.

  • Locum Contract Disputes

Locum pharmacists frequently find themselves having problems resolving outstanding payments for services or other contract issues. The PDA has successfully reclaimed many hundreds of thousands of pounds on behalf of locums from employers who have been reluctant to settle their locum invoices.

  • Criminal and other prosecutions

Historically, the most common prosecutions faced by pharmacists were for Misuse of Drugs Act and Medicines Act offences. However, the Crown Prosecution Service has on a number of occasions taken action, which means that pharmacists and even pre-reg’s may now face the prospect of gross negligence manslaughter charges in the event of an error leading to a death. The PDA has handled many cases where pharmacists have faced prosecution and through the Elizabeth Lee case has even managed to succeed in getting the law interpreted in a beneficial way for pharmacists at the Royal Court of Appeal.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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