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Quarter of pharmacy workers suffered depression due to work over past year

C+D data has highlighted soaring levels of stress and mental ill health among pharmacy workers, with more than a quarter suffering from depression due to work last year.

Data gathered in C+D’s annual Salary Survey between October 25 last year and January 20 revealed that 26% of pharmacists and pharmacy staff had suffered from depression ‘at or as a result of work’ in the previous 12 months.

Among the 843 respondents to the question, 39 individuals said they had experienced suicidal thoughts.

Read more: Eight in 10 employee pharmacists considered quitting in 2022

The 2022 Salary Survey also found that 82% of pharmacy workers – including employed pharmacists, contractors, trainees, locums, technicians and other pharmacy staff – reported suffering from stress at or due to work in the previous year.

More than half (52%) said they had ‘trouble sleeping’, while 53% said they suffered ‘poor motivation’ and 12% said they had been ‘drinking more than usual’.

 

“Staff crying in the pharmacy”

 

One respondent to the survey told C+D that they had experienced “staff crying in [the] pharmacy”.

Others said they faced “anxiety” and “hopelessness”, as well as physical issues such as back pain due to their work.

“I’m OK but the support staff are really suffering,” one said.

Read more: A fifth of employee pharmacists report ‘dangerous’ levels of understaffing

Workload and understaffing were common themes, with respondents saying workload “increases on a daily basis” so they have to “do so many things at once” that they are working as if they “have eight different arms and brains”.

Almost half (46%) of respondents reported suffering ‘untenable workload’ during the previous year.

 

Bullying and intimidation

 

Meanwhile, respondents also reported instances of bullying and intimidation – from both customers and colleagues.

The survey found:

  • 48% of respondents reported having faced ‘intimidation from customers’
  • 12% faced intimidation from colleagues, while 9% faced it from management
  • 45% reported facing ‘pressure from management’
  • 11% faced bullying at work or as a result of it, while 9% faced discrimination from customers and 8% faced harassment

Read more: Trio of crimes: Pharmacies hit by two burglaries and attempted robbery in one week

“Threats” from customers were raised by multiple respondents, including around not having medicines in stock and being told by patients that it will be their “fault” if they die.

“The pharmacy was robbed at gun point while me and two colleagues were working,” one respondent said.

 

“Sometimes I wonder why I bother”

 

Olivier Picard, pharmacist independent prescriber and owner of Newdays Pharmacy in Berkshire, told C+D that he knows of many pharmacists who “are struggling with mental health issues”.

He added that the government “doesn’t value anything” that pharmacies do.

“I’ll be honest, sometimes I wonder why I bother,” Mr Picard – who is also a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) board member – said. “It’s very tough on everyone.”

Read more: Dispensing at a loss is absurd – enough is enough

Pharmacist and senior pharmacy lecturer Nahim Khan raised concerns that these conditions will put aspiring recruits off from the profession.

“We’ve got new pharmacists coming up to the register and it’s as if we are saying: ‘Here’s the invitation. Your mental health will suffer because of your job,’” he told C+D.

Read more: PSNC rejects ‘totally inadequate’ proposals to relieve sector pressures

“It’s getting difficult to put a bright picture on things and it’s getting to the point where I’m thinking: Is this the best profession for me to be in?” he said. “It’s getting progressively worse.”

“If you’re suffering from stress or depression, how can you fully work to the best of your ability?” he added. “Everyone suffers.”

“I really worry about fellow pharmacists. Something needs to be done.”

 

“Heartbreaking”

 

Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive Leyla Hannbeck told C+D that various factors are “contributing to the stress levels that pharmacists are feeling at the moment”.

These include “years of underfunding and the pressure of managing cash flow”, as well as “workforce challenges”, “stock shortages”, NHS bureaucracy and “abusive and violent patients letting their frustration over the NHS out on us”, she said.

Read more: Striking ‘not an option’ for pharmacy businesses, PSNC warns contractors

“Our profession is completely undervalued and receives no recognition,” Dr Hannbeck added.

“As a pharmacist, I find it heartbreaking to see how our profession is going through so much stress,” she said.

Read more: CCA: At least 720 English pharmacies permanently closed since 2015

AIMp will continue highlighting the effects of these issues on the sector until decision-makers “realise the impact that their decisions are having on our workforce and ultimately patients”, she added.

C+D approached the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England for comment.

The C+D Salary Survey 2022 ran between October 25 2022 and January 20 2023 and was completed by a total of 1,480 pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

 

See all the coverage so far on the C+D Salary Survey hub

 

 

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