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One in three pharmacists have considered leaving profession, RPS survey finds

One third (33%) of pharmacists have thought about leaving the profession, while the same percentage have considered leaving their current role, a Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) survey has revealed.

Forty-five percent of 1,014 respondents to the RPS survey – which it conducted in collaboration with the charity Pharmacist Support from September 23 to October 18 – said they worked in a community pharmacy.

The survey also found that many pharmacists had difficulty getting a sufficient rest break. Out of the 57% who reported this, 40% said they were offered a break but could not take it, and 17% were not offered one at all.

Commenting on these findings, RPS president Claire Anderson said: “The impact of current workplace pressures on individuals, and the knock-on effect on patient care, is unacceptable.

“It’s truly alarming that so many pharmacists are unable to take a break during their working day and that so many have considered leaving because of their working environment.”

In light of these results, which were published yesterday (December 8), the RPS said in a statement that immediate action must be taken to “ensure that pharmacists have access to rest breaks and are able to take them”.

A “cultural change” in pharmacists’ working environment is also needed, the RPS added.


High levels of fatigue


The survey also revealed that almost nine out of 10 of its respondents (89%) “were at high risk of burnout”.

It is “not a surprise” to see such high levels of fatigue, due to the “lack of breaks, high workloads and long working hours” pharmacists are subjected to, Pharmacist Support chief executive Danielle Hunt said.

Professor Anderson said that “it’s crucial to address the root causes of poor mental health and wellbeing by driving down workplace pressures”.

There “must be a focus on retaining the current pharmacy workforce by looking after them better”, she added, and called on employers, the NHS and the government to “take immediate action to retain the current workforce”.

Last month, C+D reported on the Company Chemists’ Association’s announcement that temporary and permanent closures of community pharmacies will “be unavoidable” due to pharmacist workforce shortages.


Poor mental health


Another 68% of respondents to the RPS's survey reported struggling with their mental health due to their work or study.

This is “as much a patient safety issue as it is a wellbeing issue”, Professor Anderson said.

The survey’s responses showed that inadequate staffing and lack of work/life balance, senior support or protected learning time predominantly contributed to pharmacists’ poor mental health and wellbeing.

About 44% respondents struggling with their mental health said that “they felt that they should be able to manage without seeking help”, Ms Hunt said, signifying the need for a “culture change” that “supports people to seek help” when they need it without feeling stigmatised.


“Pharmacists can’t wait any longer”


It is important to ensure that pharmacists have “protected time” for rest breaks and learning, the RPS said. It called on the government to improve pharmacists’ access to national wellbeing services and occupational health support.

It pledged to collaborate with governments, regulators, employers, pharmacy organisations and the NHS to “take forward [its] policy recommendations”, which would “help create the right working environment and culture for good mental health and wellbeing in pharmacy”.

The RPS also pledged to explore “ways to reduce public abuse of pharmacists and their teams”.

Last week, the RPS and the CCA joined the General Pharmaceutical Council in condemning rising levels of violence towards pharmacy teams as “completely unacceptable”.

“Pharmacists can’t wait any longer, action must be taken now,” Professor Anderson stressed.



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