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C+D’s data shows stress in community pharmacy must be tackled head-on

Deputy editor Lilian Anekwe says C+D’s findings should prompt a long overdue effort to get to grips with the sector’s rising workload pressures

What effect is the rising level of stress at work – which C+D has shown increased from affecting 68% of community pharmacists to 74% in three years – having on you and your patients?

It’s crucial to publish this data. That's why C+D compiled it into a briefing document that was handed to England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge.

Pulling together the data in this way – from responses to the C+D Salary Survey in each of the past five years – means there is a bank of documented evidence to back up the anecdotal reports C+D has received, and reported on, over the years.

The impact of rising stress levels on patients is clear. Of the 1,067 pharmacists who responded to the question in the 2018 Salary Survey: ‘Which factor most affected the service you provide to patients?’ 34% said stress – making it the most-often cited factor.

After spending days analysing five years’ worth of data, I wanted to learn more about the second part of the question I posed earlier in this blog: What effect is stress having on pharmacists themselves?

Their anonymous comments laid bare the damage being wrought on pharmacists’ professional and personal lives:

“Too much paperwork and not enough hours in the day.”

“Too short-staffed for expectations. This leaves you significantly undermanned, but the expectation of achievement is unchanged.”

“Far too much work to complete in the allocated time and inadequate staffing.”

“I try not to let workload pressures affect our service to patients, although it is a struggle providing services.”

“I have learned stress reduction techniques to deal with my 18,000-item workload. God help any newly qualified pharmacist who comes to my branch.”

These are just a selection of the responses to the Salary Survey in a single year. There were dozens of others from pharmacists who have candidly shared their experiences of stress at work and the toll it takes on their patients, their health and their personal lives.

Since the General Pharmaceutical Council held its event to discuss workload pressures in October 2016 – following coverage of workload pressure among pharmacists at Boots – there has been little movement on this issue. The regulator announced it planned a “programme of work” to address pressures on pharmacists, but no one has stepped up to offer any practical measures to address what we can now demonstrate is an endemic and growing problem in the sector.

This is why C+D’s briefing document is so important – and why I hope it will finally trigger a long overdue discussion and debate – and draw out much-needed solutions.

We know NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, Keith Ridge, has seen C+D’s data. Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English pharmacy board, discussed it with him in a meeting earlier this month.

Pharmacists have told us how stress is affecting them. C+D has told NHS England and the RPS. The problem can’t be denied or ignored any more. It’s time the people responsible for leadership in the sector take a stand, commit to listening to the desperate voices of these pressured healthcare professionals and find ways to address the rising level of stress in community pharmacy – before it’s too late.

Lilian Anekwe is deputy editor of C+D. Get in touch with her on Twitter @CandDLilian, and let C+D know about your experiences of stress by emailing [email protected]. Please state whether you prefer your comments to remain anonymous.

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