As we come into the traditional busy season in pharmacy, the Council has also continued to remain busy with an ever increasing number of notifications. We have noticed a number of complaints recently that highlight customers’ perceptions and expectations of communication and professional service in a pharmacy.
In one recent case during a busy period in the pharmacy, a customer’s repeats were attached to the wrong original script and given to the wrong patient – and similarly the customer received the other customer’s repeats. One customer complained about a breach of privacy and perceived that her identity could be ‘stolen’ and the medicines intended for her could be misused. Although the pharmacy attempted to retrieve the incorrect repeats, the other customer was not able to be contacted and the error may have only become apparent when they attempted to get their repeats filled.
A second complaint arose when a customer phoned a pharmacy to enquire about stock of a medicine. The pharmacist was busy in the dispensary and told the customer to bring the prescription in as he was too busy to check. The customer lodged a complaint about the unprofessional behaviour of the pharmacist. The pharmacist later apologised stating that the pharmacy had been particularly busy at the time.
A third case involved a pharmacist reflecting on a complaint where a dispensing error had occurred. The customer didn’t receive any counselling, the patient took the wrong medicine and subsequently lodged a complaint. The pharmacist said he had become a ‘dispensing machine’, with little or no time to interact with customers.
At this busy time of year, it may be timely to reflect on how we take on our role as a health professionals and how this impacts on customers and patients. Whilst some pharmacies do have dispensing robots, it may be worth considering how we could do our tasks differently to allow that valuable customer interaction and conversations that people generally appreciate. Pharmacists are the experts on medicines and any opportunities to talk with customers and provide education and information on how to best use medicines is a key part of our professional role.
Dr Joyce Cooper
President, Pharmacy Council of NSW