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Give wellbeing support to all pharmacists, urges professional body

Survey shows that workforce pressures are taking their toll on profession

Caroline White

Friday, 13 December 2019

Workplace pressures are taking their toll on the mental health and wellbeing of pharmacists, show the results of a dedicated online survey, carried out by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the charity Pharmacist Support.

The findings have prompted to the RPS to call for all pharmacists to have access to wellbeing support in the same way that the service is available to other NHS workers.

Over 1300 pharmacists responded in two weeks to the survey, the results of which will be published in detail next year, and used to make the case to government for NHS funded support, says the RPS.

Such a service will be essential if sufficient numbers of pharmacists are to be recruited and the current workforce retained, says the RPS.

Nearly three out of four respondents said their training or working life had affected their mental health and wellbeing at some point.

And eight out of 10 respondents said that they were at high or very high risk of burnout due to exhaustion. And over half said they had had to reconsider their career options, and that they were no longer able to spend enough time with family and friends.

One in five respondents cited a lack of support staff as the main reason for deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, while the same proportion cited unrealistic expectations from a manager or organisation as a key cause.

Nearly half (44%) of respondents worried that they might make mistakes or provide a poor quality service to patients.

RPS president Sandra Gidley commented: “It’s 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.”

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

All pharmacists needed equal access to mental health and wellbeing support, funded by the NHS in order for them to continue safe and effective care, she 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.”

This had to be addressed as a matter or urgency, she insisted. “The NHS is at risk of creating workforce inequalities by providing support services for some staff, but [not] for others.”

The retention of pharmacists was essential to the future success of NHS initiatives, she said. Tackling workforce issues was core to this.

“Pharmacy can be a fantastic career full of interest and a sense of achievement, but our survey shows that workplace pressures are becoming overwhelming.”

Danielle Hunt, who heads up Pharmacist Support, said the charity heard daily from people struggling to deal with workplace pressures, so wasn’t surprised by the figures around stress and burnout. “Unfortunately for some, by the time they reach out for help, they have already reached crisis point.”

She said the charity had been working on ways to support the profession and enable pharmacists to cope better with the stresses they faced and become more resilient.

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