A helpline for struggling pharmacists has reported a rise in calls of more than a third over the past year, with many linked to workplace stress.
The Listening Friends helpline, run by charity Pharmacist Support, has seen a 39% increase in calls and a 28% increase in the number of calls made by the charity’s volunteers to clients between 2016 and 2017. The helpline is staffed by volunteers who are qualified pharmacists.
Stress at work was cited as the main issue for a call, accounting for 24% of callers — up from 19% the previous year.
The charity said the most commonly discussed issues were work-related, at 39% of all calls, slightly down from the 2016 figure of 42%.
Discrimination and harassment was given as a reason to call by 8% of callers, and illness as a reason for 16% of calls. However, it should be noted that callers can give more than one issue per call.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board chair, Sandra Gidley, said she was not surprised that more pharmacists were seeking help for stress and work related issues.
“Over the last two years, the pressures on community pharmacy have increased considerably and many independent contractors are in the worst financial situation they have ever faced — some are really struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
“Their families and houses could be on the line, and that causes considerable pressure. Those working for chains are also under increasing pressure; there are staff cuts and time pressures, which lead to the increased risk of mistakes being made. Working as a locum, I see that this is not a good environment to work in. The hospital pharmacy sector is also undergoing considerable change, which adds to stress.”
Diane Leicester-Hallam, Pharmacist Support chief executive, said: “Employment issues, including disciplinary issues, workplace stress and bullying at work, and pre-registration issues, make up around half of all our enquiries. Another 20% were in relation to looking for work.”
She added that around half of those contacting the helpline were pharmacists and a third were pre-registration trainees; the rest were largely made up of pharmacists’ dependent family members and MPharm students.
Pre-registration enquiries to the helpline covered issues such as problems during trainee placements, failing assessments and trainees having to fund themselves during often unpaid placements or between placements.