This is a campaign letter for the 2021 RPS national pharmacy board elections. The views expressed in this letter belong to the author. Find out more about the RPS elections.
Improving wellbeing has been a personal issue that I’ve been passionate about the last few years. The importance of good mental health and wellbeing of the pharmacy workforce cannot be over-emphasised. Working in a pharmacy setting can be stressful owing to a number of pressures such as increased workload and staff shortages. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated those existing pressures and the RPS Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey 2020 demonstrated this, with over 50% of respondents believing the pandemic had impacted their mental health/wellbeing to a partial extent, while 31% believed they had been significantly impacted. The Workforce Wellbeing summary illustrates some remarkable results, with 72% of respondents believing their wellbeing is negatively affected by their job and 89% at risk of burnout. Some 76% stated stress of work (e.g. unrealistic expectations from managers) was the top factor affecting mental health and wellbeing, and 68% stated it was inadequate staffing (e.g. lack of support staff).
Improving the wellbeing of the pharmacy workforce is paramount in order for us to help patients effectively and support our colleagues. Solutions have been suggested by the Workforce Wellbeing Action Group (which I am part of), who have been giving feedback on two areas the RPS is currently working on: a Workforce Wellbeing Policy and a Workforce Wellbeing and Inclusion Pledge. The RPS manifesto for the Scottish parliament elections has a number of suggestions as a ‘key ask’ for political parties. I also strongly support the seven commitments listed in the PDA Safer Pharmacies Charter.
I am a passionate believer that pharmacists require uninterrupted rest breaks and protected time for learning and development. During the peak of the pandemic, I was able to see first-hand the benefit of protected time during the working day in pharmacies, allowing us to prioritise workloads and deal with complex queries. I believe this flexibility during the work day should continue. Pharmacists should not be self-checking medicines they have dispensed and staffing levels need to be sufficient. Workforce planning needs to incorporate time/cost of education/training without adding to work pressures, along with protected and funded learning time.
It is essential that organisations put agreed pledges and policies into practice to prevent a significant number of our workforce leaving the profession. We should aim for our workforce to feel supported by managers, be functioning well and feel happier, which leads to higher productivity. I encourage all national organisations to take positive action.
Farzana Haq, election candidate, Scottish pharmacy board, Royal Pharmaceutical Society