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Community pharmacists have poor work-life balance, study suggests

People Community pharmacists have a poorer work-life balance than hospital, industry or primary care pharmacists, research has suggested, with only academic pharmacists having a worse balance.

Community pharmacists have a poorer work-life balance than hospital, industry or primary care pharmacists, research from the University of Manchester has suggested.

Only academic pharmacists had a worse balance between their work and personal lives, a survey of 12,364 pharmacists across the profession found.

The research, published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice earlier this month (May 17), asked pharmacists 10 questions on factors such as working hours, impact on family life and work-related stress to determine their work-life balance score. The 7,766 community pharmacists who responded scored a mean of 18.8 out of 30, a result that was second only to academics who scored 19.2.

Pharmacists were quizzed on factors such as working hours, impact on family life and work-related stress

More on workplace stress

Contractors revealed as most-stressed pharmacists

Stress is ‘cancer in profession', PDA warns

‘Disillusioned' pharmacists consider leaving the       profession


In pharmacy as a whole, four in 10 respondents said they usually worked long hours and more than a quarter said there wasn't much time to socialise, relax with their partners or see family during the week.

Within community pharmacy, contractors, employees at multiples and pharmacists with outside caring responsibilities found it hardest to maintain a healthy balance, according to feedback from questionnaires that were sent out to everyone on the pharmacy register in 2008.

The research backed findings from the C+D Salary Survey 2012, which found that contractors were most likely to suffer from stress

Employers, regulators and pharmaceutical bodies needed to help pharmacists maintain a better work-life balance, warned the latest study's authors at the Centre for Pharmacy Workforce Studies, Manchester University.

Employers could help by introducing flexible working hours, term-time contracts or support for those caring for elderly parents or relatives, suggested academic pharmacists and authors Elizabeth Seston and Karen Hassell.

Charity Pharmacist Support highlighted the difficulties of maintaining a work-life balance in 2011, when it revealed that one in 10 pharmacists had considered quitting the profession over the problem.

General Pharmaceutical Council standards say pharmacy owners and superintendents must ensure there are enough suitable staff to provide services safely, and that individual pharmacists should ensure their workloads do not present a risk to patient care or public safety.

How do you rate your work-life balance?

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Hardie Davis, Marketing

Yes, I agreed with the fact; that community pharmacists have poor work life balance than others. We definitely need a good work life balance so that, we can easily maintain healthy relationship with our professional and personal life. We should learn some basic tips on how to improve our work life balance.

Chijioke Agomo, Locum pharmacist

I am glad that the findings of this paper were finally published. However, there might be a need to re-conduct this research, as the initial study was conducted in 2008. Many things have changed for the worse since then. I published in 2012 an article in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, which highlighted similar challenges: 'Why improving the work–life balance of pharmacists might benefit employers and the profession'. The paper is available at:

M Yang, Community pharmacist

I'm happy to say I'll soon be resigning from my permanent job to take up locuming. Permanent employment was quite stressful, although as a relief I took comfort in not having to return to the same poorly run, under budget, under staffed pharmacy day after day, come in an hour before opening time and stay an hour after closing time, with only 15 minutes to cram a sandwich into my mouth.

Call me old fashioned, but I like to cook lunch the night before and take my time eating while reading a magazine/paper/book. While the locum market isn't brilliant at the moment, some quick sums I did suggests I can still earn more less what I currently earn as an employee working on average 5 days a week for 40 weeks a year. I've saved up enough to keep me going for a long time in case work is slow. Also I made the wise decision and have taken advantage of the property market (it's a buyers' market right now), so will be able to supplement my locuming with the rent money I collect.

I'll be able to look forward to taking holidays when I want, as opposed to signing in my holidays ONE year in advance. Seriously, how can anyone expect us to plan that far ahead? Guess pharmacists are supposed to be able to predict the future. On top of having four arms, to dispense those prescriptions faster and serve on the counter all at the same time.

Papa Echo, Community pharmacist

Where I do I start?!!! To be honest we have a hopeless professional body surrounded by corporate vultures who have no interest in patients welfare !!!

Tell me, if Joe Public knew that the Government (whose crying out about austerity measures), using that some money that we dont have to pay for non-essential services like MURs, NMS, etc.

I used to be proud to say that I was a pharmacist in this country but nowadays when they ask me what I do for a living, I'd rather say nothing !!!!!

I know within myself it's a struggle to maintain that work life balance, I am so unsociable when I get home, no time to anything else......

The 'profession' (if you can call it that)feels like a piece of driftwood floating away in the deep blue sea.

I fear if nothing is done in the immediate future to address these issues in the workplace, the GPhC would have to find some other form of income to support their body due to mass defections of members.

Chad Harris, Community pharmacist

You are right. It stopped being a profession in the 90s. I tell people I work in 'retail management'
NMS should be axed, we are only duplicating Drs' work. MURs should be slashed to 200. Quality not quantity and let the govt. take the rest of the money back instead of more category M cuts.
I am fortunate I am not married and have no children or outstanding debt. I can work 4 or less days a week. I feel very much for the young ones with mortgage and car loans and student debt and young families to bring up.
As has been stated, what on earth is the answer to all these problems?
I know so many colleagues, both pharmacists and other staff who now hate their jobs. I think it all started in 2005 with this new contract and all these services. There are only so many hours in the day, and so many staff to do these things. And most become useless and counterproductive. Asking the same people year after year for an MUR or to do a patient survey. They get fed up. And so do we! And now, NICE wants us to start hassling the punters about exercise! Blimey! In the winter I barely see daylight! Let alone do any exercise!!
But what we have sown we shall reap. Word is slowly spreading and kids are starting to think pharmacy might be a tad too much, to leave with 50k of debt then earn £18 per hr for a 9 or 10 hr day, when your mates who did medicine or law start racking up 100k a year salaries and you can barely make 45k without dying a little inside every day!
Oh how I wish I was 17 again and could re-do that UCCA (now UCAS!) form.
One of my friends said recently, roll on retirement! But should we have to wish our lives away?
I think since the multiples and supermarkets captured over 50% of the market in the 90s, it has been all downhill since.
We really need RPS to stand up for what is actually possible to be done in a day. Instead of what they would 'like' to be done in a day. Another article on here today has a list as long as your arm from 'pharmacy leaders' of things pharmacists could do! And guess what, the woman doesn't WORK in a community pharmacy does she?
Does she? I very much doubt it! I don't mind offering and trying new services but only with the remuneration and staff support, and sadly this is usually lacking now. And training days tend to be on a Sunday for flu jabs, or evening courses. So hence no work life balance! I must stop now! But feel free to add what I've missed. Not that many will take note, after all most of the area managers aren't even pharmacists anymore!! What do they know? They think we are overpaid moaning minnies!!!

David Lewis, Community pharmacist

Couldn't agree more. The biggest problem is that we pharmacists don't stick together. We've been effectively quashed by the multiples who have NO interest in patient care, safety or customer service. They care ONLY about shareholder value. I'm extremely lucky to have found a job elsewhere (my wife got out some years ago). Unfortunately the 'writings on the wall' for community pharmacy - and has been for some 10 years. We just carry on as we've no other choice. I my mind the only way to improve the situation would be to make any pharmacy chain limited to 50 pharmacies. No more multiples to hijack professional bodies and to effectively dictate legislation (RP rules for a starter). Also there's far more chance that those who move into any position of power in the pharmacy world might actually be a pharmacist and have worked in a pharmacy (and understand what happens in the real world). I pity any student coming into community pharmacy today. Salaries going down, job satisfaction zero, work life balance....ha ha. Wish I'd done medicine.

Jannine Hillier, Non healthcare professional

Highest cause of stress is having absolutely no control over the activities you persue
How can we call ourselves professionals if we cannot say NO. The Francis report should be mandatory reading, Mid Staffs happened because people who have no code of ethics delivered exactly what they were asked to do any echoes hear?
Undergradutes should be warned that while there peers in other areas will automatically enjoy weekends off and short working days without the bother of adhering to a code of ethics.
Family life will be nonexistent as already stated unless you have access to instant locums. You WILL miss out on your childrens achievements as the outside world is not run for the benefit of pharmacists.
Friends will gradually lose intrest as you can never get time off at short notice.
Pharmacy is designing it self to fail, there are so many regulations to fufil how can you be sure you are conducting pharmacy legally at any time?
The enforcers new and old really do not care about the individual as it is not in their remit unless they break any of the regulations with a low burden of proof.
As for pensions...
The answer is not even in our hands so the stress is not going to abate.There are plenty of options outside of pharmacy

A Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Although it has been known for a very long time that there is this problem there is now hard data with over 7000 respondents. There is no way that this matter can be refuted.

Maybe C and D should take this information and ask the GPhC on their opinion and how they plan to tackle this issue as its clear employers are capitalising on the sheer surplus of pharmacist and the continued degradation of our profession.

RB Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

why can't GPhC specify how many items a pharmacist can check safely in an eight hour shift? and accordingly employers should be made to employ appropriate numbers of pharmacists in a branch. At the moment whether you are working in a pharmacy which dispenses 200 items a day or 800 a day, there is only one pharmacist to finish everything on top of enhanced services and other management responsibilities. The other problem is that pharmacists themselves are not united like GPs. All pharmacists should unite and speak in one voice and then only somebody will listen. otherwise like me, many pharmacists will be leaving profession in next few years as soon as they find better ways of paying bills.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

How on earth are we superintendents and owners supposed to sort it out?!!! We are barely surviving as it is. We are desperate for staff.. Who is going to pay for it? As for MURs and extra services, what a joke. I don't even go to the toilet most days and arrive home shattered and in an awful mood.

How High?, Community pharmacist

Well if the Superintendents and owners can't what sort of chance do the rest of us have?

We carry the burden of responsibility with no say and no control over what actually happens with regard support, staffing or the safe running of the pharmacy.

Don't talk to us about who's going to pay. I have yet to meet a poor owner or see a manager in a multiple driving a beat up old car like the one I have to run.

As for the GPhC, read Regulate and you'll see they commit to nothing when asked a question directly but they will enforce whichever rule you happen to break when acting in the patient's "best" interests.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

You are looking at owners who are rich from when owning a pharmacy was worth it.. these days it simple isn't. Maybe you should buy one now and prove your point? I'm going for a cruise in my top of the range BMW now..... not!

Janet NQ, Community pharmacist

Not suprised at all. I don't even have time to add more..

How High?, Community pharmacist

The main issue is total lack of flexibility in our profession.
We are obliged to be present when the Pharmacy is open and this is often 10+ hours.
It's the only profession I know of where this happens.

Can you pop out to the newsagents, go for a walk or to collect your car from a service? No!
Can you go to the doctor, dentist or your children's graduation without booking with your rota team 3 months ahead and using a day's holiday?

Lunch? What's that then? I asked the RPSGB about this 20+ years ago and was told that my patient's welfare came first in every case so I'd have to work round them. Of course I was only dispensing 400 a day then. Now I'm on 800 a day with NMS, MURs, EHC, MAS, Smoking, HLP etc ad nauseum all thrown in too.

Yes, we have ACTs but unfortunately due to staff cutbacks we have nobody to actually dispense, so we use the ACTs as expensive dispensers. It makes the books look good and on paper the company is very supportive.

Anyway nobody listens and nobody is interested either.

Work-life balance does not exist in any way, shape or form. I know Pharmacists who have given up Sports and hobbies they love as there is no longer room in their lives for them. I know Pharmacists who are both off sick and contemplating being off sick with stress related disorders. I know several who are currently being prescribed anxiolytics and antidepressants just to get through the week.

I have personally given up the fight to try and do everything that's asked. I concentrate now on customers, services and professional standards plus anything that might be used by the GPhC to threaten my registration. I've had to let the rest go as I simply can't get it done and to hear the plates hitting the ground can be quite distressing.....

Anyway we put on the happy face when the Area Manager comes calling and we ask

"How high?"

sanjai sankar, Locum pharmacist

Competition is so rife with the focus on speed of "service" particularly in London...Really wish the GPHC could step in here and lay down some rules about "quality breaks" away from the Pharmacy....

Underrated Professional, Locum pharmacist

Keep wishing......The GPhC watched this problem escalate and gave us Listening Friends. But are they really paying attention.
I know a colleague who works from 9AM-11PM (4 consecutive days), with one hour break. No sitting outside of that one hour.
Can anyone name a PROFESSION to match that?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Research stating the obvious for most community pharmacists!

Arun Jangra, Community pharmacist

The industry runs years behind what Pharmacist are saying. we have been saying this for years and only now are they listening. More and more work is being pushed on to us and we are told that we should work harder, do more MUR's etc , when ? we don't even have enough time to drink a cup of tea or even go to the toilet with out customers wanting this and that. I am sure that some one should take the industry to the court if human rights. i am sure this would make a good case.

Hitesh Patel, Community pharmacist

Well, I may be wrong but this is the first survey done which focuses on our work-life environment.
Funny, I just read this article after talking to a customer of some 20 years, and how she is now going to the pharmacy up the road as he delivers his medicines.
Again, I may be wrong, but how do you guys out there put in 10 hours a day,without lunch breaks, tea breaks and then deliver meds at night?!
I frankly cannot workout/understand at what cost ,personal or financial,you are doing this!
I have 25 years under my belt and regret every day of pharmacy, kids have been steered clear of the profession, I have taken off Mondays for over 11 years and closed on Saturdays, and you know what? STILL HATE THE PROFESSION.
This has been very therapeutic, thank you for reading!

I am a locum and find lack of a break during the day is a problem in most places, and most of the time my 'break' consists of trying to shove a sandwich down my throat as quickly as I can whilst being brought through baskets of prescriptions to check, or asked to come out and speak to someone. I am aware that I am there to do a job however working solidly for 9/10 hours takes its toll and if other staff are entitled to proper breaks then pharmacists should also be. Legally we should get a break in that time however with the current situation and lack of work available I have to just keep my mouth shut or I won't get booked again!

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Hi Fiona,

You hit the nail on the head with: “I have to just keep my mouth shut or I won't get booked again” (as a locum).

It is the same for employee Pharmacists, working in the knowledge that there are many other Pharmacists out there desperate for work that will fill the place if a stand is made.

I do not know what the solution is…perhaps things have now gone too far to be ever recovered?

Hitesh Patel, Community pharmacist

Absolutely true!
Why does that bus load of people arrive as you"stuff that sandwich" in your mouth.
Never understood why my NHS contract dictates, dipense the prescription as soon as possible(which means on the stop!!) and a GP's surgery take two to three days to get a script ready.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

The unfortunate fact is that with the current situation (oversupply of Pharmacists, domination of the employment market by large Multiples and falling NHS remunerations), working conditions in terms of salary, work load, pressure and stress are more likely to get worse rather than better.

Sara Baco, Community pharmacist

This is exactly why the GPHC needs to step in and put regulations in place that allow pharmacist to lead a less stressful lifestyle. eg make it illegal for a pharmacist to work over a cetain number of hours per week or make it essential that a pharmacist takes a decent break when working so many hours.

Dany Ros, Primary care pharmacist

In France, it is a statutory obligation to employ another pharmacist if the pharmacy income goes over a certain threshold. So it is not common to see 2 or more pharmacists in an average French pharmacy

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