Date of prep: December 2020
Prescribing information and
adverse events reporting
For healthcare professionals only
Later that week our pharmacist decides to declare to her employer that she has a problem. She does not tell her employer about the drinking at work episode.
Should she tell the GPhC the whole story?
If not, why not?
“If she discloses this, she will lose her license. Losing her job will only worsen her alcohol addiction and could spin her life out of control. If she seeks help and this never happens again then she will be able to continue work. She should seek the advice of a lawyer in addition.”
“To seek advice maybe the whole story not needed.”
“Because it would breach the privacy of the pharmacist as a patient. No harm had occurred during her episode and she is taking active steps to rectify her behaviour.”
“Although this is a potential fitness to practice issue, she needs to try and resolve it with her employer’s support. She needs to take some time off work and allow herself to recover.”
“Confidentiality and by breaching her trust she will not seek help from you so may not get the help she needs.”
“This would trigger a fitness to practice issue and in my experience, the way these are dealt with by the GPhC would bring further stress to the pharmacist and would potentially make her drinking problem worse. She is actively seeking help to change her situation and this should be supported.”
“This lady is ill and only when she is getting help and feels in a stronger position should she consider telling the GPhC.”
“She should admit this, then agree to suspend herself from the register until help can be obtained – she can then apply for re-instalment once the matter is dealt with.”
“Being that people already know about drinking at work, she probably should, as if it comes out later it will be worse for her.”
“Currently there has not been any harm caused to patients and if she stops working until the issue is resolved then I’m not sure whether it needs to be reported to the GPhC.”
“The added stress of worrying about the impact on her registration could make any attempt to stop drinking more difficult.”
She decides to seek help and makes contact with Alcoholics anonymous.
“Yes, a pharmacy technician was found to be drunk at work. This instance was handled within the company however was not reported to the GPhC.”
“Yes, I used to drink heavily when I worked in industrial pharmacy. I am now teetotal.”
“Yes, a colleague in another pharmacy in the same time had alcohol issues. I had to cover rostered urgent weekend duty for him twice because he was too drunk to drive to work and open his pharmacy He was an owner so there was no employer to report to. One of his staff told me some mornings he seemed to be still under the influence from the night before. I informed his GP.”
“I think any substance is open to abuse especially as we work in a high paced and demanding role. It is not just pharmacy that has to deal with this but also teaching, nursing, GPs etc and we should not demonise the person, rather be somewhat understanding and see what we can do to help them. The society should offer a non-judgemental approach to pharmacy professionals who state they have issues. In my 20+ years, I’ve seen pharmacists removed from branches because of various issues such as alcohol and drug use but this has been extremely rare.”
“Yes, a locum who used to arrive at work half cut. I was a Saturday girl at the time. She was suspended then eventually removed from the register. (RPSGB in those days).”
“From pharmacists and pharmacy staff I know, there is perhaps a bigger hidden problem than what is recognised. Many people will drink alcohol nightly, and if most looked at the calculation, they would be over the weekly limit. Of course, this isn’t all pharmacists, but for those who do drink, binge drinking is also an issue.”
“In my three years of practice as a locum pharmacist in community pharmacy, I have only met one pharmacist who had a problem with alcohol. She was very messy and unprofessional and her license was partially suspended by the pharmacy council already, from being reported earlier. She was only allowed to work with another pharmacist at all times (could not be sole charge).”
“It’s a problem for anyone. Pharmacists and technicians are just as likely to be affected as any other person.”
“I do think alcohol abuse is a problem and as a society, we are not very good at dealing with it. Drinking is too engrained in our culture. We need to approach this as we did smoking – where it is acceptable socially to use NRT. We do not have readily available OTC in the pharmacy, such a mechanism/product for alcohol misuse.”
“I’ve never experienced this. I don’t particularly think alcohol abuse is a particular problem for pharmacy professionals.”
“Probably due to stress levels.”
“Yes and yes.”
“Yes on both counts.”
“Not a problem during work, but have certainly seen a lot of drunk pharmacists outside work.”
“In my experience alcohol plays a major part in the lives of many pharmacy staff members, not just pharmacists. The job can be incredibly stressful, with increasing employer demands and insufficient staffing levels/resources to complete the day job effectively. This affects all members of the pharmacy team and typically the natural response by many is to resort to an alcoholic drink post work to help with stress levels. With the increasing workload in community pharmacy, a combination of lack of funding and increased service offerings, this potential problem will only get worse.”
“I have never had this experience, but my reaction would be to exhaust all avenues of help before contacting GPhC. My feeling about them is that they would come down like a pile of bricks and offer no support!”
“I am sure it is – many pharmacists work in stressful environments/jobs.”
“Nope. Drugs abuse from a technician yes.”
“Not experienced it but think it’s a growing issue.”
“Never experienced something similar but probably a bigger problem than we think.”
“Have not experienced anything similar but alcohol probably is a problem within pharmacy due to the stressful environment.”
“A pharmacist in my pre-registration year (not my tutor) regularly came into work smelling of stale alcohol from the night before- they had a reputation of a bit of a party animal. I didn’t think of it at the time but I think they had a dependency on alcohol.”
“Not personally but I do know pharmacists who have had a problem. Some have resolved the issue and some have had to leave the register.”
Thank you for taking part in this dilemma. We will publish the results in the coming weeks.
Pharmacy in Practice is a UK pharmacy publication with its roots in Scotland.