Tag Archives: work

Manic Monday

There has been one question that we have asked over and over again during the past month:

“DO YOU HAVE ANY LATERAL FLOW TESTS?”

For months we have been able to order lateral flow tests from our suppliers, that is the same suppliers that deliver usually twice a day (once on Saturdays) our order of prescription medicines, devices, dressings etc. The size of our daily order/delivery of dispensary stock can vary. If we have a lot of prescriptions for a lot of medications that we do not have at hand on our shelves – the order is bigger. I guess the average is two-four boxes, but sometimes we have a delivery of six or more boxes of medicines etc.

When we ordered a carton of lateral flow tests (which has around 56 smaller boxes each containing 7 lateral flow tests) it would be brought by the same supplier bringing the dispensary order, and for most of the year, that carton would last around three or four days.

blue and white box on brown wooden table

Until December. As the demand increased, we found that one carton of 56 test kits was not lasting a day. So we tried to order more cartons. Our suppliers explained we were not allowed to order more than one carton a day, because there is not space in the delivery vans to accommodate more than one box per pharmacy. We understood that. Do you think our customers could understand that?

There was no shortage of lateral flow tests waiting in warehouses, but unless they find another way of transporting them (during a time we know there is a shortage of drivers) the logistics of supplying enough boxes to meet a demand caused partly by people just wanting to test before seeing family during the holidays, and partly by a media ignited wave of panic – it made it seem like a crisis. A crisis it was not.

Then the media started reporting that there was a national shortage of lateral flow tests and that no pharmacies had any. That was not accurate. But it did seem to start a wave of panic (just like the paracetamol crisis, alcohol gel crisis, toilet paper crisis, and the fuel crisis) and now we found even more people rushing in to ask for lateral flow tests. Now one carton was only lasting an hour.

We told our customers about the gov.uk web page for ordering kits to be delivered to your home address. They told us there were none available. I have found that a few times myself, but I have been still able to order test kits for me and my family by being patient and persistent. I understood from official sources that again there was no shortage of test kits, but the logistics of getting them delivered was a challenge. All year the Royal Mail have been delivering them. But during December, probably the busiest time of year for the Royal Mail, the demand exceeded the capacity. I saw news reports saying that other delivery companies were going to help out with this challenge (even though they are probably working extra hours during December as well).

So….we did something that we don’t really like to do….but it seemed to be the most sensible option. We put up signs that read:

Do you think that worked? If I had a penny for every time someone had approached the counter and said, “I saw the sign, but I was wondering if you do actually have any test kits?” I would be a wealthy man.

Why would we do that? Do you think we are twisted? The sign disappears for an hour a day when we do have tests, and our customers come in and take one, and then presumably send a WhatsApp message to everyone they know, because we have a sudden rush that clear us out within an hour. Then the sign goes back up on the counter until our delivery the next day.

Yes….it is a crazy time for Pharmacy teams. Trying to keep up with prescriptions when we spend so much time on the counter responding to enquiries about lateral flow tests has been bizarre. I am hoping it settles now that the holidays are out of the way. In the meantime, I just ordered a box from the gov.uk web page. So if you really need tests kits, please try to order them online to be delivered to your home. Most pharmacies will be closed today.

Manic Monday

I have two words for you:

ALARM CLOCKS

How is it that if they are going to fail, it is most likely to be on a Monday morning? I really really hate turning up late for work on a Monday. It means the week starts on a low note – my manager is grumpy with me, my colleagues giving me sideways glances, customers somehow detecting the awkward atmosphere in the Pharmacy.

Photo by KoolShooters on Pexels.com

Manic Monday

So one of the scenarios that slows work down enormously at work is when a customer brings an item to the counter and you scan it through the till and the price registers as more than the customer is expecting.

We have a non-stop flow of work inside the dispensary. It is hard to explain the volume of work in the form of prescriptions to dispense, dosette boxes to compile, and a heap of administration tasks in connection with our patients and suppliers. The phone rings all day with patients asking questions about their medication.

So when a customer comes to the pharmacy with a mascara that scans as £8.99 and they say that the label said £6.99 my heart just sinks. The only way I can know is to leave the dispensary, trek across the shop floor, try to make sense of the labels which are often all mixed up, figure out which mascara the customer has, find the matching label and clarify the price the store is advertising the product as. If we have advertised it as the lower price, the manager’s will do a refund of the price difference and check the pricing, perhaps replacing the label if there is a mistake.

Only…there are some rules that make the task a nightmare. If I have scanned the product at £8.99 it is sitting there on the screen. If I leave the till to go and check the shop floor, I have to log out of the till, only I cannot do that until the transaction has been voided. Only I am not allowed to void transactions. Only a manager can. The manager’s are usually on the shop floor or upstairs in the office. I cannot leave the till to go and find the manager because it leaves the till vulnerable. So I have to wait for a passing member of staff and ask them to find the manager.

All this time the customer is looking at me as if I am hopeless….and I am thinking of all the work piling up in the dispensary. Eventually the manager comes along and voids the transaction. Then I go and try to figure out the labels for the mascaras. As far as I can see, the customer is right, our label says £6.99. Only I am not authorized to change the price of that the product scans as, only the manager can do that!

The manager has disappeared again. This time I am free to go and search for her. I have to ask the customer to wait again, while I check all parts of the shop floor and then run up to the office. I cannot find her anywhere. Eventually she reappears, apparently she was in the ladies.

The manager looks after the customer and corrects the label. I have just lost twenty minutes to one stinking mascara! It can be incredibly frustrating when this happens several times in a day.

Manic Monday

That time we dread is here: STOCKTAKE!

Why is it a fearsome thing. An external team come in. They take forever! We have to carry on with work, serving customers and dispensing prescriptions.

Suddenly it becomes very cosy with six people instead of three working in a small space. They have to ask us questions throughout the day. As closing time drawers to a close, often they have still not finished and we have to break away from our work to make sure that we the job is finished and we can lock up and go home before midnight.

Manic Monday

Changes can be challenging. Within our pharmacy, we have had to make a lot of changes during the course of the past year. Some of them are great changes in many ways, others are harder to understand.

We received instructions to clean the counter area every hour and we have a rota to make sure it is done. That’s a good thing. We all see the need for that. But fitting it into a busy work day and remembering to do it has sometimes been a challenge.

Then there are changes our customers might not always see. Head Office ask us to do “things” – either completely new aspects of our work (which has nothing to do with the basic role of the pharmacy) or just doing things differently. It slows us down to incorporate all these changes. We see our main role as dispensing prescriptions and giving advice on minor ailments.

Sometimes that does not seem enough for the big bosses who I guess are looking at the figures and trying to make us stand out to win customers over from our competitors. So now, we can’t just be team of pharmacy assistants and a pharmacist, we have to be pushy sales assistants, technological wizards, social media gurus, influencers, sex life advisors,…and more. Sometimes I am afraid that after our customers stand there and listen to our pitch to try to get them to sign up for every service we offer and buy products they never heard of before (and don’t really need) – will they ever want to come back to our pharmacy again?

Manic Monday

Life in a pharmacy can be intense. Customers do not always realize how much work we have to do, work that we need to concentrate on so that we do not make mistakes.

Sometimes we have a rush of customers all come in at the same time presenting us with prescriptions. We have to ask them to return in ten minutes (or if we have lots of prescriptions we may increase that waiting time accordingly).

Last week, a customer turned up with five pages of prescriptions with almost twenty items listed on them. Knowing we were already processing the prescriptions of several customers who were soon to return to the pharmacy to collect the medications on prescriptions they had handed in earlier, I explained to the customer that it would take time to gather all the stock, label them and have the pharmacist check them. I asked if they could return to collect the prescription in around half an hour.

I am not going to repeat what the customer said. Wow! Just wow! It’s been a long time since I heard such a vitriol of contempt and scorn.

Of course, you can be sure that Jacob Nyamake was polite as always!

Manic Monday

The latest situation we seem to be facing in the Pharmacy? We have had a number of patients that just seem….well…”lost”. They talk to us about minor ailments and aches. But when we ask them questions, their symptoms are so confusing we have to refer them to the Pharmacist.

When the Pharmacist tries to make sense of what they are reporting to us, it seems most likely that their symptoms are brought on by stress. It has been a stressful year, so that is no surprise.

We were talking about it last week. So many of our patients seem to be neglected. They have not been able to have the occasional ten minute appointment with their GP over the past twelve months. They stumble into the Pharmacy looking clueless. They know they don’t feel right, but they have no idea what could be causing it.

Our role is now involving a lot more reassurance to our customers that the NHS cares about them and wants to help them. But wow, it is so time-consuming. It is really challenging to give half an hour to a customer that needs to talk when you have forty prescriptions to dispense before customers arrive to collect their medications.

We are trying to get that balance right, but it is challenging. We are all huge believers that sometimes, a little kindness can make a huge difference to the welfare of our customers.

Manic Monday

I know that the Pandemic has been stressful, but we have seen some strange behaviour at times from customers. One of the daily challenges we have in Pharmacy is customers who come to collect their prescriptions or buy a box of Solpadine Max when the Pharmacist is absent on their lunch break.

Legally, we are not allowed to do certain tasks while the Pharmacist is not there to supervise our activities. We are not permitted to give out prescription medications or to sell Pharmacy only medications.

Our Pharmacists usually work for twelve hour shifts. They are allowed an hour’s lunch break. Most just go for a quick walk to the nearby supermarket, buy a sandwich or a microwave meal and then come back to the Pharmacy and eat their lunch in a corner.. Usually they are only absent for ten minutes. But while the have gone, we cannot give out prescription medications.

Some customers accept that and return later on. Others throw an absolute wobbly and start ranting about how ridiculous it is. One of the challenges in Pharmacy is that some customers don’t seem to accept that a Pharmacist who works twelves hours is allowed a break to stretch their legs and buy some lunch.

Manic Mondays

There is a customer who comes in every eight weeks to pick up his prescription. He always does/says the same thing. No amount of effort to be nice and polite changes his behaviour.

For a start, he scowls. Woe-be-tide you if you ask how he is. His reply would be a look that could kill!

When you hand him his bag of medication, he starts to mutter how stupid the pharmacy staff are and that they always make mistakes. Then he tears open the paper bag and starts examining the contents. Every time he does that, there are no mistakes, there is nothing missing, he has received exactly what the Doctor prescribed, which is exactly what he is expecting.

But can he say thank you? No way man! He continues to grumble. Now he wants a new bag because he has just ripped the other one up. He keeps saying how terrible this pharmacy is and how we always make mistakes – even though for the past two years I have seen him check his bag of medication and never find a single mistake.

If he really thinks we are so hopeless, I sometimes wonder why he does not go to another pharmacy? But no, he seems to prefer to come to us and tell us how stupid we are instead.

What can we say? “Have a nice week Sir.”

Manic Monday

There is one customer who is so predictable it’s almost funny, except it’s not. Almost every Saturday morning he will call and ask for an emergency supply of some medication he has ran out of. The local surgeries are all closed at the weekend, so we cannot get a prescription from the Doctor. We request his regular medication every two months, but he comes up with some kind of anti-fungal cream that he has once a year or an inhaler that he has once a year and says he has to have it, he cannot wait until Monday.

Even though the Pharmacist will try to reason with him over the phone that it is not an urgent item, he will wander along about an hour later, insisting that he have this product and that it cannot wait until Monday.

But when he comes, he has his own style that makes him a unique man. He will sit in a chair talking to a family member of friend on his mobile phone and drinking from a can of beer. The Pharmacist waits for him to end his phone call so they can discuss the item with him, but this customer goes on and on talking. We keep popping out to serve other customers and trying to catch his eye, but he continues his call. Half an hour later he ends his call and then comes and bangs on the counter asking why we have kept him waiting for so long.

We were politely waiting for him to finish his phone-call. He starts banging his hands on the counter and telling other customers we have kept him waiting for hours. He’s been there for around half an hour maximum. He starts to tell everyone that we are the worst pharmacy he has ever been to (he has been coming to our pharmacy for around fifteen years!)

He has a discussion with the Pharmacist and it turns out that the medication (usually a cream or an inhaler) is not finished yet, he still has some, but he says the Doctor sometimes hesitant to prescribe it, so he figures the easiest way to get what he wants is to ask the Pharmacy for an emergency supply and then let us worry about chasing up a prescription. We explain that is not how the emergency request arrangement works.

Eventually, after a lot of debating, he will leave, and its usually then that we notice an empty beer can sitting on one of the chairs in the waiting area.