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Vast majority of community pharmacists at high risk of burnout


Vast majority of community pharmacists at high risk of burnout

The vast majority of community pharmacists are at high risk of burnout, a new survey indicates, with many saying poor staffing levels are creating excessive stress in the workplace.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s annual Workforce and Wellbeing survey, which received 1,496 responses between September 20 and October 14 2022, found that 96 per cent of those working in community pharmacy were at high risk of burnout, compared to 80 per cent of those working in other sectors.

Thirty-seven per cent of respondents reported having poor or very poor mental health, rising to 45 per cent of community pharmacy workers. Thirty-two per cent reported ‘average’ mental health and wellbeing, while 31 per cent picked ‘good or very good’.

“Respondents working in community pharmacy were more likely to report that their mental health was poor compared to other sectors,” said the RPS, although it added that there has been an increase in the number of those reporting good or very good mental health, particularly compared to 2020.

Women and people living with disabilities were more likely to report having mental health issues.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents had considered leaving either their job or the profession altogether because of their work’s impact on their mental health in the last 12 months. Of these, 12 per cent had moved to a new role or career.

The top issues impacting mental health and wellbeing include inadequate staffing (70 per cent of respondents; 84 per cent of those working in community pharmacy), a lack of work-life balance (53 per cent) and long working hours (42 per cent).

“Our survey findings paint a very bleak picture of community pharmacy,” said the RPS, explaining that inadequate rest breaks and protected learning time and verbal and physical abuse were all more common in this sector.

Other negative factors reported by community pharmacy workers included low pay, poor management, workplace bullying and a lack of career progression.

One respondent said: “Community pharmacy is broken. Pharmacists and support staff are leaving in droves due to understaffing and workplace pressures.”

RPS president Claire Anderson said: “With pharmacy teams at risk of burnout, governments urgently need to improve workforce planning for pharmacy that addresses head-on the issues of skill mix and adequate staffing which are at the heart of overload in pharmacy.

“The recruitment and retention of pharmacists and their teams is crucial if the ambitions for pharmacy to play a key role in the future NHS are to be delivered. Planning must be backed by long-term investment and training from both employers and governments to make work more rewarding and improve career pathways.” 

Danielle Hunt, chief executive of charity Pharmacist Support, which co-produces the survey in conjunction with the RPS, commented: “As the profession’s independent charity focused on wellbeing, the results of this report echo many of the individual stories we hear from those who come to the charity for support.

“During the past year we have experienced a large increase in the number of people reaching out for counselling and looking to share their own experiences with mental health and wellbeing via our ACTNow campaign.

“The survey results also highlight the impact work environments and working conditions have on mental health.

“As well as the strategic plans needed to address the root cause of some of the workplace issues highlighted, we believe that there is an immediate need for employers to consider what they can do to support positive wellbeing. 

“We plan to support this during 2023 by providing tools, training and support for pharmacy leaders that we hope will assist in embedding positive wellbeing practices into the workplace.”

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