Majority of pharmacists still at high risk of burnout, survey results suggest

Results of a survey by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmacist Support also show that almost a third of pharmacists are considering leaving the profession.

Almost nine out of ten (89%) pharmacists are at high risk of burnout, according to survey results published by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

The findings are part of the 2021 ‘Workforce Wellbeing Survey‘, which the RPS carries out annually with the charity Pharmacist Support.

In the 2020 survey, the same percentage (89%) of pharmacists reported being at high risk of burnout; in 2019, this proportion was 80%.

There were 1,014 respondents to the survey, with the largest proportion (45%) working in the community sector. Just over a quarter of respondents (26%) work in hospital pharmacy and 11% work in general practice.

Almost a third (32%) of respondents said they had considered leaving the profession.

Many respondents raised issues with a lack of breaks and protected learning time, with 40% saying their workplace did not offer any protected learning time. The same proportion of respondents said they were frequently unable to take any rest breaks through the day.

Among factors affecting mental health and wellbeing at work, 70% of respondents flagged “inadequate staffing” as a problem. Almost two-thirds (64%) raised long working hours and lack of work/life balance as an issue.

The survey also revealed that despite the challenges faced by pharmacy staff, two-thirds of respondents said they would not feel comfortable accessing mental health and wellbeing support from their employer, university or place of work/study.

The survey findings mirror those of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s annual salary and job satisfaction survey, in which 73% of the 1,020 respondents said that “staff absence” was a factor contributing to stress levels.

Claire Anderson, president of the RPS, said the ‘Workforce Wellbeing Survey’ survey showed it was “crucial to address the root causes of poor mental health and wellbeing by driving down workplace pressures to help retain and support the pharmacy workforce”.

She added that the pharmacy workforce was “already under significant pressure at a time when it is being called on to do even more”.

“This type of pressure is unsustainable without meaningful measures being taken to support pharmacy teams,” she said. “Pharmacists can’t wait any longer, action must be taken now.”  

Alongside the survey results, the RPS published a statement on 9 December 2021 calling for improvements to capacity and culture in the pharmacy workforce.

The statement calls for improved workforce data collection and planning; investment in training and upskilling; and better integration of pharmacy within the multidisciplinary team.

It also demands protected time for rest breaks and learning; support for flexible working and portfolio careers and improved public understanding of what the pharmacy team does.

Where to go if you are struggling

Pharmacist SupportA charity supporting pharmacists and their families, former pharmacists and pharmacy students. The charity now provides direct psychological support for those who are experiencing mental health issues, funding up to 12 counselling sessions.

NHS mental health and wellbeing support: All NHS health and care staff in England can access mental health support via 40 staff mental health and wellbeing hubs around the country. All regulated health and social care professionals can access support in Scotland via the Workforce Specialist Service. The Health for Health Professionals Wales is a free mental health support service for doctors that was expanded in April 2020 to provide support and advice for all frontline NHS Wales staff.

Helplines and free wellbeing apps: NHS England has introduced a confidential NHS staff support line, operated by the Samaritans, which is free to access from 07:00–23:00, seven days per week, on 0800 069 6222. Trained advisers can help with signposting and confidential listening. Support can also be accessed by texting FRONTLINE to 85258 for support 24/7. NHS staff have also been given free access to several wellbeing apps.

The National Wellbeing Helpline (0800 111 4191) in Scotland provides a compassionate listening service that is available 24/7 and can offer advice and signposting to local staff support services, when required. A National Wellbeing Hub also offers a broad range of advice and evidence-based digital resources to help staff with issues such as stress, anxiety, low mood, insomnia/poor sleep and resilience.

Read more: Work-related stress: the hidden pandemic in pharmacy

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2021, Vol 307, No 7956;307(7956)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.119691

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