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Pharmacists suffer unacceptable mental health consequences of workplace pressures 

Joint research from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and Pharmacist Support has revealed the shocking impact of workplace pressures on the mental health and wellbeing of pharmacists.  

Over 1300 pharmacists responded in just two weeks to a call issued by RPS and Pharmacist Support to report their concerns. They detailed the stress and burnout they face because of pressures at work which have led many of them to reconsider their career.  

This evidence will be used by both organisations to campaign for NHS-funded wellbeing support for all pharmacists – a service already in place for some NHS workers.   

Nearly threequarters of respondents to the survey on workplace wellbeing said their training or working life has had an impact on their mental health and wellbeing at some point. 

A shocking 80% said they were at high or very high risk of burnout because of exhaustion, and over half said they felt they have had to reconsider their career and no longer spend enough time with family and friends. 

One in five pharmacists cited a lack of support staff as the main reason for their poor mental health and wellbeing. The same proportion quoted unrealistic expectations from their manager or organisation as a key cause. 

A further 44% were concerned about potentially making mistakes or providing a poor quality service to their patients. 

RPS President Sandra Gidley said:  

Its 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. 

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

“Retaining pharmacists in the workplace is essential to the future success of NHS initiatives.   Addressing mental health and wellbeing issues caused by workplace pressures must be a core part of 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.  We will continue campaigning until structured mental health and wellbeing services are available to all pharmacists. 

Danielle Hunt, Chief Executive of Pharmacist Support, said:  

“At Pharmacist Support we hear from people every day struggling to deal with the pressures faced at work, so sadly we are not surprised by the statistics around stress and burnout revealed through this survey. Unfortunately for some, by the time they reach out for help, they have already reached crisis point.   

“The charity has been focused on developing proactive ways to support the profession, providing new tools and techniques to assist individuals to feel better equipped to deal with these stresses.  

“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.” 

More detailed analysis of the data will be published in Spring 2020 to inform a roundtable with the NHS, government, employers and others to identify solutions.   

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