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Pharmacy practice

Almost half of pharmacists worry about mistakes or poor service, reveals wellbeing survey

In a survey conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmacist Support, 80% of respondents said they were at a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk of burnout through exhaustion.

Almost half of pharmacists who responded to a survey on workforce wellbeing said they worry about making mistakes or providing a poor-quality service to their patients.

Four out of five respondents (80%) said they were at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk of burnout through exhaustion, and more than half said they did not have enough time with family and friends because of their heavy workload.

There were 1,324 responses to the survey, which was conducted jointly by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the charity Pharmacist Support, between 10 October 2019 and 8 November 2019.

One in five respondents to the survey cited a lack of pharmacy support staff as a factor in their poor mental health and wellbeing. The same proportion of respondents cited unrealistic expectations from their manager or organisation as a major factor in their mental wellbeing.

Responding to the survey findings, Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, said the situation was ”incredibly tough in frontline practice right now”.

“Demands are increasing and resources are scarce. This is not specific to one sector but impacts pharmacists wherever they work.

“We are the third largest health profession but come bottom in workplace mental health provision.”

The evidence gathered through the survey will be used by both bodies to add weight to demands for pharmacist access to NHS-funded wellbeing support services. At present, pharmacists who are not directly employed by the NHS — such as those working in the community, care homes or GP practices — are unable to access NHS wellbeing support.

“We’re calling for all pharmacists to gain equal access to a support service that’s funded by the NHS, so they can continue to provide safe and effective care,” Gidley said.

“At present, only those pharmacists employed directly by the NHS get access to help, alongside doctors and dentists, who get it wherever they work.”

“The government must address this as a matter of urgency. The NHS is at risk of creating workforce inequalities by providing support services for some staff and not others.”

Danielle Hunt, chief executive of Pharmacist Support, said: “Sadly, we are not surprised by the statistics around stress and burnout revealed through this survey,” adding that the charity hears on a daily basis from pharmacists struggling to deal with the pressures faced at work.

“Unfortunately for some, by the time they reach out for help, they have already reached crisis point.

“Having seen demand for our services increase significantly in recent years, we are pleased to be working with the RPS to find more ways to provide funded support, crucial to ensuring a resilient pharmacy workforce.”

The full survey data will be published in spring 2020, at which point a roundtable will be held with representatives of the NHS, government, employers and other stakeholders to explore solutions to the crisis.

The survey formed the starting point of a joint campaign by the RPS and Pharmacist Support for improved mental health and wellbeing in the pharmacy workforce, which launched on World Mental Health Day 2019.

A survey carried out by The Pharmaceutical Journal in 2019 found that half (49%) of community pharmacists reported having ‘low’ or ‘very low’ morale, while 77% of community pharmacists would not recommend working in the sector to others.  

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207447

Readers' comments (4)

  • It is disgusting that other sectors of Health Professionals can receive NHS funded support with their mental health. I thought I could cope with all the demands of a community pharmacy, family and everything. It is too late when you have the nervous breakdown, you don’t realise you are at risk , you think you can run around like a headless chicken because that’s what we are meant to do isn’t it ? Care for our patients and protect them from other professional’s errors at the expense of our well being. Hit those targets no matter what. Please those Area Managers and also be a Personnel officer for your immediate staff and their well being etc. Then when you need help the GPhC take the side of the employers against you blindly believing you are now unfit to do your job especially if they can pin a bit of previous Post Natal Depression on you too just because your naive GP decided that was why you cried on your third visit with your baby because he took three days to diagnose Rubella 26 years ago!! Yes and then the lovely RPS who actually are caring still but send you a form to fill in saying what offence have you committed.... oh sorry just a nervous breakdown! , but please can I stay a member of the RPS. Do I sound bitter, yes I do but for good reason. Don’t trust the Occupational Health person either who is “ independent” of your employer but lies that he had consent to send your medical notes to GPhC before he did. I really love that my RPS number still lets me on here to have my say. Sadly it doesn’t anonymise me but hey ho, who cares I don’t have to answer to anyone anymore. All Pharmacists should stand together and fight for the right to have good well being and mental health. I know from experience and it has been a hard lesson to learn. RPS hopefully can make a difference now together with PSA and PDA so no other Pharmacist commits suicide or ends up in a Psychiatric hospital due to their employers actions.If I could turn the clock back I would have not have worked extra hours for nothing, left the EHC who walked in the door at closing time, not delivered after hours when my delivery driver refused, not allowed my staff to go anywhere except stay at my shop when by losing them I would feel I needed to stay behind , I would have had my 20 minutes lunch without interruption and I wouldn’t have tried to do 400 MURs because it was incentivised and you were passively bullied if you didn’t do your MURs and NMS etc.. GPhC you have let us down. You know what employers are doing but still allow it to happen.

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  • The pay is awful too. Sandra Gidley should stand up for all pharmacists. It has long been an underrated profession and let down by those who could do more, but don’t. The lack of union representation has led to extremely poor pay, after five years study, and poor working conditions.
    I would not recommend this profession to any young person.

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  • The people in charge don't want to do anything. If anything, the corporations, large business owners and workers' representatives are all on the same team.

    Forget union representation; from what i can see they are on the side of the management, not workers. You are not allowed to address certain topics or they refuse to discuss them, which means they are under orders from somewhere else.

    There are not enough jobs either, I am 30 with two post graduate level 7 degrees, including Law, and still cannot find a safe secure job with a pension scheme anywhere. Yet they continue to insist that a bit part locum is a "fantastic job opportunity".

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  • Patient centered care must remain a priority.However i believe that pharmacists are not sub humans.Their working conditions,salary and wellbeing must be a top level priority.The official statitistics on the stress levels and nervous breakdowns amongst pharmacist doesnt look good.Can anything be done to better this?

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