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Politicians and pharmacy leaders gather to tackle pharmacist stress

C+D and Pharmacist Support joined forces to organise the parliamentary event in Portcullis House

C+D and Pharmacist Support gathered MPs, sector leaders and pharmacists at a parliamentary event to raise awareness of the growing pressures on pharmacy teams.

Opening yesterday’s parliamentary event in Portcullis House, Westminster, all-party pharmacy group (APPG) chair Sir Kevin Barron MP (pictured below) said: “It’s really been a privilege to witness the incredible work that pharmacists and their teams do for patients and their communities across the UK, acting on the frontline of healthcare to the public.”

However, “if pharmacists are to be expected to deliver a range of new services, we need to ensure that doesn’t come at the expense of workload pressures”, he stressed.

“Chemist+Druggist has uncovered rising stress levels, which we’re going to hear more about in a minute, while Pharmacist Support has seen an increased reliance on its services,” he added. “There is clearly an issue here that needs addressing.”

Sir Kevin urged delegates to pledge their backing for Pharmacist Support’s #GoGreen4PS fundraising campaign – which runs from September 25-October 31.

Three other politicians – Labour MP for Burnley Julie Cooper, Manchester Withington’s Jeff Smith and Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, and APPG vice-chair, Steve Double – attended the event, organised by C+D and Pharmacist Support.

The more than 50 pharmacists and sector representatives who attended were each given a copy of C+D’s findings on rising stress in pharmacies. You can download the document here.

“Pharmacists suffering in silence”

C+D editor James Waldron used his address to highlight findings from the C+D Salary Survey 2018, which revealed that stress levels among readers have now reached 74%.

“Unlike the pressures on GPs…the toll on pharmacists has often been suffered in silence,” he told delegates.

Mr Waldron explained that C+D had organised the parliamentary event with Pharmacist Support because “we wanted to bring the sector together to begin talking about this issue”.

“We need to have a frank discussion, and raise awareness across the NHS, and among politicians, that many pharmacists and pharmacy staff are now struggling,” he said.

Read Mr Waldron’s speech in full, including first-hand accounts of how stress is impacting pharmacists’ health.

Increasing requests for support

According to Pharmacist Support chief executive Danielle Hunt, the charity is seeing a “huge increase in demand” from pharmacists needing help, with 61% of pharmacists struggling with stress at work.

“It’s actually no surprise to the charity that 97% of the people we surveyed said they would require some sort of support from us,” she said at the event.

“Ninety-two per cent of our survey respondents agree that more needs to be done to raise awareness of what’s going on,” Ms Hunt added.

“I've had pharmacists crying down the phone”

Leyla Hannbeck (pictured below), chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told delegates she has experienced “first-hand” the extreme stress that pharmacists are under.

“I've had people calling me and crying on the phone, because they’ve had so much stress that they don’t know where to go and what to do,” she added.

It’s “a very sad thing to hear” that pharmacists are not sleeping at night, because their level of stress is having an impact on their health, Ms Hannbeck added.

She suggested funding pressures, increasing bureaucracy, and “having to chase medicines they cannot get hold of” are some of the reasons contributing to stress among the community pharmacy workforce.

These issues need urgent attention, she said, because if the pharmacy workforce are motivated, feels valued and are not demoralised, they can “do magic”, Ms Hannbeck added.

“I believe in my heart that community pharmacy can be that motivated workforce and do loads for the NHS. Those in the position of leadership and power [should] help us as a sector, [and] support us to get the recognition that this sector really deserves,” she said.

A personal perspective

Offering his personal perspective on workplace pressures was Sunil Lakhani, owner of four pharmacies in London and a Pharmacist Support trustee.

He calculated that the new five-year funding contract for England will leave contractors short of £26,200 on average a year.

While the new Community Pharmacy Consultation Service – which launches on October 29 – could be a way of recouping a portion of that loss, “we [would] have to do 156 of those [consultations] every month to recover or to stand still”, he said.

“Losses are further compounded by the time taken to get hold of medicines that are in short supply right now,” Mr Lakhani added.

“The NHS payment scheme also seems to lack transparency and consistency. That adds a massive amount of stress to the pharmacist or the pharmacy owner.”

He suggested that many contractors – himself included – have had to tell their banks they will not be able to pay their bills on time.

“What we desperately need is a united voice and the united approach to help deal with some of these issues,” Mr Lakhani stressed.

Images by Brendan Foster Photography

4 Comments
Question: 
What do you think is the greatest cause of stress for pharmacy staff?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

The trouble is, we provided so much for free for so many years, like free collection and delivery of scripts and filling community dossette trays for no payment. Expensive and time-consuming.  Need van and driver and diesel and someone to do all the popping and filling where one script can talk half an hour instead of 5 minutes. so the government obviously thought, well we don't pay them for any of this, so we're obviously over paying them. Look at GPs, what do they do for free?  Nothing! Some won't even sign a passport form or if they will they want 25 quid!! 

So basically they thought we need to remedy this and pay them less to put labels on boxes! They finally woke up to the MUR abuse and bullying and thought they had better make some cuts. Unfortunately, they are deep, harsh savage cuts.  But we only have ourselves to blame for not valuing ourselves and doing everything for free.  Phone Tesco and ask if they do free delivery! And I bet people who have paid the 3 or 4 £ make damn sure they're in as re-delivery is another fee again. That's called a business model. Pharmacy is a wet as water profession, always has been, doesn't value itself or what it offers, so how can you expect anyone from government down to patients to value you? Sorry, but it's true. Healthcare in this country needs a good shake up but no one has the cojones, even Maggie only tinkered round the edges. Firstly we need to stop being wet and treating half the world. If they arrive with suitcases off a plane, we ask for a credit card for a deposit. That's what any other  country would do.  This is why we're having Brexit, people are fed up of anyone arriving and having the same access to things they haven't contributed a penny for.  Why, I always ask, are all the illegal immigrants, because that is what they are, they are not migrants, bloody BBC!  at Calais or now Dunkirk trying to get to Britain. Having passed through maybe more than half a dozen safe countries. and what's wrong with France, ok, there's the French, but at least you get better weather and nice cheese and wine and baked goods. But reading a letter from a lady in the paper an ex-pat over there solved my query, she said the French government give them nothing barely. Enough to eat and sleep. Any way back to the NHS, huge shake-up needed, why has no-one else in the world copied it? Because it's ridiculous! We need to give tax breaks to rich people to encourage them to use private healthcare, encourage people to buy private healthcare with incentives, move the OAP exemption from 60 to 70. A lot of people work in their 60s. they can afford a pre-payment certificate.  It's £104 pounds! The NHS is not a bottomless pit of money and can't pay for everything. People need to understand this and there needs to be a huge campaign to get them to self-care and ask in the pharmacy.  It's what we were trained for. And no minor ailments schemes with loads of stuff to fill out for a 50p packet of paracetamol. AND, before the Guardian readers start on about all the poverty, etc they've all got mobile phones, nails done, men in designer gear, funky haircuts. Just get plenty of cheap generic treatments in for less than a fiver. There is much more to say but it's late. Someone needs to devise a new pay as you go NHS and set it up to start for babies born after say Jan 1st 2025. At the age of 18 the NHS they access will be a chargeable one . That gives us over 20 years to sort the bureaucracy out. Hospital treatment remains free but A and E is charged at £5 a visit. And GP visit is £2.50.  Anyone with a long term condition pays by DD about £20 a month and only under 18s and over 75s receive free scripts.  That's a start. i'm sure everyone will moan and groan but eventually the NHS will collapse. If we leave the EU and can actually have control of our borders, not like now when any of 500 million people can just legally rock up her and stay because of free movement. Who thought that up?!? How on earth can you do 5 or 10 yr housing or school place planning when you have no idea what the population will be!!  Anyway just a few thoughts. I'm sure some will agree and others will wring their hands about the 'poor' . Come with me to Africa, and see absolute poverty not the relative poverty in the UK.And don't even get me started on food banks and the economic cost of using them to free up money for other things!!  Sorry for the rant. Please continue it with your own thoughts. Will the NHS survive til 2050 in it's current state?  How do we change it in a fair way? What can we ask the PSNC to do for us to make our jobs less chaotic and every day full of stress? 

 

A Pharmacy Worker, Pharmaceutical Adviser

I do wish that this topic did not just focus on PHARMACISTS pressure! If you have a pharmacy that is being bombarded with targets such as MUR's, Flu jabs, etc etc etc, AND are also understaffed, how many staff are left to deal with the constant stream of patients, (to dispense/resolve queries) whilst the pharmacist is in the consultation room, delivering those services? The answer, (in my case, is NONE) 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I sympathise with anyone who works for a multiple. I work for an indy and the stress I suffer has become intolerable recently so I dread to think what it's like at a Boots or Lloyds. The lack of support from management is the cause. 

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Have you sat back to think the contractors simply can’t afford to provide support? They probably need support themselves! 

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