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.