Mental health awareness week: bullying in the pharmacy

Mental health is often missing from public health debates even though it’s critical to well-being.” — Diane Abbott

I am forced to write this on behalf of my colleagues, who feel helpless with dire consequences to their mental health. I have had conversations and heard scenarios, which in retrospect really amount to covert bullying. Examples range from pressure to do medicines use reviews (MURs), which made the headlines, unreasonable requests for emergency supplies, e.g. for diazepam, to requests to supply against unsigned prescriptions by GP receptionists. The list is endless.

In two severe cases, an unsigned prescription for a child had a questionable dose for the medication and thankfully did not get dispensed. Another involved not being able to supply methadone against a wrongly written prescription on a Saturday. The pharmacist did not succumb to bullying but found a prescriber willing to issue the dose from a nearby hospital.

Pharmacy teams are under pressure to increase the number of prescriptions processed and reduce the time it takes to execute. Most have exemplary customer-service skills and support the pharmacist when difficult or unfavourable decisions are made to customers. The worrying thing, however, is, in some cases, where pharmacists cannot immediately supply medication or need to go through a more rigorous process to safely and legally make a supply, some team members respond by sulking, and generally becoming unhelpful. In one sinister case there was a sudden increase in dispensing error rate (alleged sabotage?).

Furthermore, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association carried out a six-year survey that reported pharmacists’ experiences of bullying behaviours coupled with the degree of emotional strain and stress, even coining the term ‘MUR strain’. Sadly, the results implied an increase in non-supportive environments and adverse working conditions, non-conducive to pharmacists working autonomously.

Now, as invaluable healthcare professionals, we cannot afford to be bullied into any practice that jeopardises our mental health and patient safety. We must and will continue to confer our duty of care within legal and ethical frameworks, utilising optimal models of care within these challenging times.

On a more practical note, I encourage pharmacists, indeed any members of the pharmacy team, to not suffer in silence and seek support if needed. The Listening Friends helpline (0808 168 5133) is a useful resource.

Sally Omolara Rose

Election candidate, English Pharmacy Board

Royal Pharmaceutical Society

The candidate letters for the RPS national pharmacy board elections have not been edited by The Pharmaceutical Journal



Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Mental health awareness week: bullying in the pharmacy;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202756

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