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Pharmacists seek support as workload pressures mount

People Nearly four in 10 pharmacists have sought help for stress in the past year, a C+D poll has found. Pharmacy leaders blamed increasing work pressures for the findings of the poll, conducted ahead of the launch of the C+D Salary Survey 2013.

Nearly four in 10 pharmacists have sought help for stress in the past year, a C+D poll has found.

Pharmacy leaders blamed increasing work pressures for the findings of the poll, which was conducted over a week ahead of today's (August 23) launch of the C+D Salary Survey 2013.

The poll of 118 respondents suggested that more pharmacists than GPs are seeking help for stress. A survey by GP magazine Pulse this month found that 12 per cent had sought help from pastoral or wellbeing services in the past year.

Rising prescription volumes and pressure to conduct services meant stress was inevitably high in pharmacy, sector leaders told C+D.

"This pressure is the cancer within our profession. Employers just want to make as much money as possible from dispensing" John Murphy, PDA

More on stress levels

Jennifer Richardson: It's time to speak up on stress

The stress factor

Contractors revealed as most-stressed pharmacists


Pharmacists' Defence Association (PDA) dirtector John Murphy warned that "unacceptable workloads" in the profession could put patients at risk.

"This pressure is the cancer within our profession. Employers just want to make as much money as possible from dispensing," he argued. "Unfortunately, it may be that it will take a major patient safety catastrophe for employers to take this issue seriously."

Lindsey Gilpin, pharmacist and founder of online forum Locum Voice, said pharmacists felt they were "wading through treacle" in increasingly tough working conditions. "We're doing more and more prescriptions and getting more and more pressure to do MURs and the new medicine service because those [services] are being used to make up the shortfall in funding," she told C+D.

"You're a bit like a rat on a treadmill – you're using so much energy and that's fine for a while, but eventually you do feel stressed," she said. Ms Gilpin added that the pressures were eating into the amount of time pharmacists could spend with patients – making the job "very frustrating".

Mike Hewitson, owner of Beaminster Pharmacy, Dorset, also reported a decline in job satisfaction. "The sense of fun has gone out of the world of pharmacy – it's the gradual attrition of funding, worsening conditions and increasing workload," he said.

Charity Pharmacist Support told C+D it had seen a 19 per cent increase in the number of calls to its enquiry line this year, partly prompted by stress. "This stems from a whole range of issues including money worries, health problems, workload, issues with colleagues, personal and family issues, pre-exam stress and anxiety for those who have failed," reported charity manager Diane Leicester.

The C+D Salary Survey has uncovered increasing levels of stress in the past two years. The highest rise was among contractors, with three quarters suffering from work-related stress in 2012 compared with just over half in 2011.

The Salary Survey gives you the chance to compare your pay and conditions with your peers. Take the survey today to be in with a chance to win a Kindle Fire.


The year in workplace pressures

August 2013 The PDA urges government to tackle MUR pressure

June 2013 Pharmacist Support says staff cutbacks are increasing workplace stress

May 2013 Community pharmacists found to have poor work-life balance

November 2012 Employees report falling support for stress

October 2012 Pharmacists say workplace pressures are jeopardising patient care

August 2012 Pharmacist Support warns law changes could gag disgruntled employees

Are you suffering from stress at work? Take the C+D Salary Survey 2013

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Mo Chapman, Locum pharmacist

I would not advise any young person to undergo a pharmacy degree. It used to be a respected profession but no longer. Why tie oneself to a life of employee slavery-perhaps too strong a word, but 5 years training in a difficult discipline leading to boring checking work, coupled with governing bodies who do nothing to further pay, working conditions. Today I was working in a shop that contained notices warning of asbestos! The directors would not work in those conditions. Terrible profession- do not go near.


I used to be a locum and now own a pharmacy. Yes things are tough but it beats being bullied by the multiples. There is money to be made in pharmacy if one can dispense 3000 items a month. By obtaining good through a range of wholesalers I can take home 90,000 per annum...
The fault partly lies at the feet of locums who will work for pathetic hourly rates and then moan....

Don't be fooled by the notion that contractors are struggling. the money has just been spread to services like MURs, NMS etc.....IF THINGS WERE AS BAD AS SUGGESTED, many would have sold up, however Pharmacy prices are at a premium..
Lets stop working, make money and help our common man

Asmita Patel, Community pharmacist

I have been reading all the comments made and it difficult to see employee pharmacists coming to logger heads with employers. I can see it from their point of view but when you are running a business you are also answerable to your bank managers.If it is not a high turnover pharmacy the of course every avenue has to be looked at regarding income.Employees leave at the end of the day albeit after a stressful day but can at least go home and relax. Business owners take stress home trying to work out financial issues which need addressing and it does really ruin any family life you may have.
I am a pharmacist proprietor and have been for 25 years. I absolutely love my work and running of the business At this stage of my life I was quite happy to job share and have a relaxed life. In fact I find my life has completely been taken over and I spend evenings and sometimes Sundays just playing catch up. With respect the regular locums I have are happy to do their days work and do not believe in helping out reagrding any paperwork.I have no issues paying extra for this help but it is never forthcoming as they just do not want the responsibility.I am an independant so I cannot speak for the multiples but it is sometimes disappointing to see some of the calibre of the locums where there is no enthusiasm or commitment to the profession.


In respose to asmita:
You seem to pick and choose what you wish to inform us
Locums get no holiday pay, no sick pay, any basic rights that employed locums receive, travel long distances, work unsociable hours (100 hr pharmacy) under staffed pharmacies, No increase in pay for 5 years and the list goes on!!

I HAVE NO SYMPATHY for contractors. If you cant cope, sell up...Dont expect symapthy from the rest of us...

A Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Why are people going off track on this article? Dispensers and pharmacy support staff are the best friends a pharmacist can ever have but unfortunately some multiples are not giving anybody any development opportunities. Its a costs game and its fine up to an extent ! Guys the time for action is now, there are scary things in the pipeline and if you do not stand up and make some noise (ie raise concerns with our superintendents/pharmacy offices. hr dept) then we cant turn back the tide. I made a stand, It was scary but I said no to poor working conditions and my life is better not only for me but for my support staff as well.... and hey presto, all of our productivity increased and the business did better !!!!! My ystaff and I are target smashers now in an area of our expertise... Standing up against stress is not being a sissy, its being tactical and finding a better way to work !!! I am of the firm opinion that only myopic managers will tell people to shape up or ship out when there is a genuine problem.

Ahmed :-), Community pharmacist

Err judging by the last few comments we may have gone a little off track... anyway this is my view of the work pressures in pharmacy...
1) The PUBLIC - can have a very cynical of pharmacy as a lot of people seem to be unaware of what we actually do, this results in comments (that genuinely happened to pharmacists I know in the past week) like " is this Rx gonna take long, I know you're a notoriously slow pharmacy" (it's not by the way, this particular pharmacist is prob the best I know and cares about looking after their pts AND works v hard). This can result in a very tense atmosphere esp when busy, with eyes piercing you whenever you look up into the shop... what became a good day can easily descend into a stressed environment for all staff. Maybe if our profession actually evolves one day beyond checkers into clinicians, then we can educate the public as it happens, keep in the loop so that they feel part of the process (not like the shambles that was the introduction of MURs when Drs were binning them as they were not kept in the loop)
Our Lovely Employers - as I am a locum in community, I can only speak from my experience and they are as previously described so eloquently and frequently by many. The shockingly poor contract negotiated by the well paid geniuses at the PSNC (are they even pharmacists??) has resulted in the introduction of the dreaded targets and increased services...all at the same time as an economic crisis in Britain resulting in the greedy Multiples asking for more from the pharmacy team whilst giving them less staff.
The Dispensary Team - unfortunately this in turn can create an increasingly hostile atmosphere in the dispensary itself, rife with over-worked staff cursing each other as soon as their back has turned, whispers about staff not working as hard as others descending into outright bullying (I've noticed that it especially occurs in understaffed overworked pharmacies). Stressed yet? I bloody am an not even a poor lonely manager!
As the increasingly impressive PDA have said, if you are a stressed pharmacist then PLEASE inform your super-intendents office AND your GPs as if it comes to the crunch (I pray it doesn't) and you need to defend yourself, then you have evidence to prove that your concerns are long-standing and genuine.
Ps I am not cynical, I actually enjoy pharmacy, helping my pts understand their meds, interacting with GOOD hard-working conscientious (I spelt that without spell checker correcting it ;-) staff to provide a good service.
Pps. I'm sorry about the abuse that you tend to receive C W. I think that at the moment, if a technician was dragged out of the dispensary to provide services on PGDs, there will be no-one left to dispense. If pharmacy was well staffed, then I don't see the problem of techs providing these services as they already do similar duties (smoking cessation/ weight loss etc) that are then checked off by the pharmacist. I do worry about the professionalism of some of some techs at times though (I've sat through a two hour Lipotrim training course with a tech who told me at the end that she wants to do Lipotrim for 3 weeks but only take two of the three recommended sachets as she has load of weight to lose before her hols??!!) and feel that it is not a well regulated profession YET. I know the standard of the course to qualify to be a tech is quite high, but it is all course work (not a true assessment of knowledge) and the time given to train is ridiculous. Pharmacists spend five years to qualify, techs train whilst doing a full time job.

Clinical Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

It's a shame that after such rigorous training and expertise in medicines, we are simply told what to do by managers who have no background into the job whatsoever and have a poor education background themselves. It's also shocking that these problems are constantly talked about each and every day and we have still done nothing as a profession.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

I have been qualified nearly 40 years and can remember that busy pharmacies had two or even three pharmacists on duty together. We all know it is overdue for proper remuneration for community pharmacies. If that happened then perhaps we could have some use of a second pharmacist, even if it is limited to the odd half day or one day a week. It would take away some of the strain and allow for training of all the pharmacy team.

Ahmed :-), Community pharmacist

Totally agree Clinical, but I have a cunning plan...
Whilst at Uni not too long ago, I sat in a social pharmacy lecture being told by a well known non-pharmacist lecturer about how the 'exact' science of 'work force planning' dictated how many pharmacy students were allowed entry into Universities in England. She said non-directly that as I am Asian (my dad was born in Britain so I'm second generation therefore with more western ideals compared to their neutered view) I'll probably open up a pharmacy business (not true) and that most Foreign Oriental students will go back to their respected country of origin to practice etc. Therefore there would be an increase in universities allowed to open Schools of Pharmacy (I began to worry from that point) happened and obviously their best laid plans floundered horribly (for many reasons) and a disrespectfully poor lack of planning saw a flood of successful graduates with many not able to complete their training due to a lack of pre-reg places (to counter this, the GPhC created an apparently muddled exam this year with many obscure questions so that many failed!! Poor poor bloody students, studying four years of pharmacy only to be asked irrelevant material)....
HOWEVER!!!! My lecturer did make another claim that I ignored at the time but am now clinging to....this increase of students would drive up standards as the strong would survive and the weak would flounder. The Head of my pharmacy school implored us to survive by driving up our standards to stand head and shoulders above day there will be students qualifying who will drive our profession with inspirational that one day there will a pharmacist equivalent to Dr Hilary Jones on GMTV and a drama series on the BBC called Pharmacists, following the lives and work of professional (and some less so) members of the pharmacy team...I'll volunteer to play a bad's more fun!!!
Seriously though, one day I hope we have pharmacy leaders who represent us proudly and lead the way for their pharmacists, to leave an indelible stamp on the NHS, not the potential stain we currently meander towards. Unfortunately our profession is currently not 'fit for purpose' as it is impossible to stick to advised Standards Of Practice due to the lack of staff creating a Mission Impossible-like frantic nature in pharmacy (I think I'll hum the theme tune the next time I'm at a busy pharmacy) and I personally give a Vote of No Confidence in the GPhC for putting PMedicines on self selection (I don't want to wrestle a box of co-codamol or nytol off one of the many poor victims currently addicted to it)! I pride myself at helping to control the supply of medicine to a potentially vulnerable public (medicines are by their nature a balance between effectiveness and potential harm) so they are making MY job to protect the public harder!

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

its called RETAIL PHARMACY the clue is in the name...profit, marginal costs etc are part of its existance.

Ahmed :-), Community pharmacist

I don't get it John, what are you trying to justify with this statement? Reduced pt care? Increased pressure on staff? Poor pay for its employees? Remember who pays us, the NHS and we should therefore abide by its ideals. Not the ideals of the companies (some of whom pay a reduced tax rate to the rest of us by being based abroad, like that too do you?) who see its employees as nothing more than a number at best...and an expendable hinderance at worst.

Clinical Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

I am liking your thinking Ahmed. I think if we stood up as a profession for once rather than go round in circles going on about our problems we may get somewhere. Didn't GPs stick up for themselves when they had a contract which was poor not so long ago. Why can't we do the same for goodness sake? we need to represent ourselves better and have a stronger voice.

It is funny that we are all referring to community pharmacy only here, there never seems to be any mention of struggles in hospital pharmacy as at least there is no corporate agenda and you have time for your lunch with well trained staff who provided excellent support.

We just cannot keep going on like this, this is the umpteenth time an article such as this has been posted and we seem to moan and not move forward and voice our opinions.


The market enteries should be scrapped and replaced as follows:

1. Allowed to open a pharmacy in any location - market conditions will dictate how many in a specific location.
2. Pharmacies free to choose opening hours.
3. Pharmacies to work along side opticians/dentists..
4. flu jabs/hajj vaccinations/malaria tablets - pharmacy first port of call
5 Innovative ideas to be rewarded
6. A proper pharmacy first scheme where a range of drugs can be prescribed by a pharmacist to treat minor ailments to include :
trimethoprim /diclofenac 50mg /ventolin/nystatin

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Im assuming Mr Ibraheem is in the profession just to make money, judging by his comments. Unfortunately its the business tycoons out there who are just concerned with making money who have destroyed the reputation of pharmacist s and thw profession of pharmacy. Patient care out of the window and lets count our profits (sounds a lot like the current new NHS structure of CCGs)

The stress and pressures that todays Pharmacists deal with these days is appalling. I've been in pharmacy since 1987 and have seen how things have changed and absolutely not for the better either. As a member of support staff having to watch how the major chains have turned into prescription factories and treat all their staff like robots, it sickens me. I've seen normally tough and unshakeable Pharmacists turned into gibbering wrecks because some unqualified area manager has a go at them for missing out on ridiculous targets. I have stood up for my Pharmacist and whistleblown on a number of occasions as i have believed that my patients safety was in genuine danger. This has got so bad that i no longer will work in any community pharmacy. Many are now potentially dangerous places and most pharmacy healthcare workers would agree with that if they felt able to express their views without being disciplined, bullied or sacked!!

Tien On, Community pharmacist

There was a time when the professional body tried to regulate for pharmacist "mental breaks" to minimise errors, but were rolled over by the major chains requirements to open all hours. Anyone remember the days when BTC had their lights off in the dispensary for the lunch break?
The modern retail pharmacy landscape is a minefield ,and such a dangerous place to pratice. One wrong move and you get blown up by the FTP panel, who appears to live in the alternate universe. When/who will recognise the impossible position that pharmacists are put in, being torn in all directions by the demands of the job and trying to practice safely, foregoing breaks, and even time for toilet breaks.

Soon we will all be on the other side of the counter. PSS (Pharmacist Sickness Syndrome).

C W, Dispensing assistant

Isn't this a point that was made my technicians when they were wanting greater responsibilities in their work? If you see, say, four consultations for the morning after pill that last seven minutes each, that's nearly half an hour of your time spent out of the dispensary meaning no scripts can go out. If a technician can do that, it frees up the only member of staff allowed to let a prescription leave the store - the pharmacist - to give out more scripts. Yet an overwhelming number of pharmacists voted to say they'd be against such measures.

You can't complain about a lack of support/manpower and at the same time refuse to delegate greater responsibilities to your staff.

Chad Harris, Community pharmacist

You're probably a good tech, but some are not sadly!! and it's our name and job on the line!

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

In reply to CW, the wonderful counter assistant. I think you need to do your dispensing training, followed by your technicians course, then you'll be in a position to contribute to this argument. Anyway, pharmacists need time away from the dispensing process in order to undertake clinical consultations and offer more services. They dont need assistance in providing clinical services by non clinical, under trained staff who have, with all due respect, no clinical idea at all. So CW, I'm assuming you fully understand all of pharmacokinetics and have mastered all types of interactions? You can fully use your professional discretion? No doubt if the technician (or counter assistant CW) makes any error in supply it will be the poor pharmacist who has to wipe his back side clean after a beating by the GPhC and most likely his own employer (who employed the untrained individual to carry out the task) yet ANOTHER type of work pressure to add to the already stressed out pharmacist

C W, Dispensing assistant

I'm sure your arrogant, denigrating reply to me will garner you many, many upvotes, but I think you need to take a step back and realise that I don't need to be a pharmacist or a dispenser to contribute to this discussion. Unless you're forgetting, this website is intended for all pharmacy staff, not just those who work on a counter.

My point was fairly clear, was it not? That if you're going to complain about stress and lack of support in the workplace - which as I understand, are fairly common complaints by pharmacists on here - it would be helpful to have members of staff who can take on some of the tasks pharmacists regularly do.

I don't understand pharmacokinetics, nor have I mastered all types of interactions. You're saying that to try and put yourself into a superior position, but what I know (or don't know, in this case) in regards to those two subjects isn't relevant at all.

The point here is that pharmacists complain rather incessantly about stress and staff shortages yet at the same time seem unhappy that their staff could take on greater responsibility.

Either suck it up, reduce the services you supply, or let your technicians have more responsibility.

Clinical Pharmacist, Hospital pharmacist

Half of the stress comes from 'managers' who no nothing about pharmacy in general and try to act as though they know the score. Training techs to give morning after pills doesn't stop MUR burdens does it?

Suggest you get a reality check into pharmacy.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I am not an arrogant person at all. The point I am making is that you need to concentrate on roles within your own expertise. Anyway, I've made my point and you've proven it for me by stating that the knowledge of pharmacokinetics and interactions are irrelevant? How ignorant. Anyway all the best in ur chosen route, but please take professional accountability for all your actions as I will not be taking the blame for the mess you create. (Time for me to pursue a different career I think? Maybe dentistry - do u think I can train to be a dental nurse and then to reduce the workload of the dentist and assist him/her to carry out fillings and tooth extractions if I work under a set protocol???? Mmmm sounds exciting)

Shveta V, Community pharmacist

If a tech provides EHC on a PGD, whose fault is it if something goes wrong? The RPs or the techs? If it's the RP then obviously we don't want that kind of "help". If it's the techs responsibility then great go ahead and take one of the pressures off us. Now all that's left are the MURSs NMSs carehome scripts methadone scripts deliveries and waiters to check off amongst all the queries from all the customers that must "ask the pharmacist". CW your contribution is appreciated but im not sure you understand the pressure that a pharmacist faces unless you are a pharmacist dealing with that pressure and being responsible for everything that happens while you're under that pressure

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

We have some wonderful support staff in pharmacies, some of whom have the patience of Job. We should have a career structure for all staff and dedicated training time for everybody in the pharmacy team. However, it is no good APTuk looking for an excuse to become pharmacists with a pharmacy technician training. The problem lies with the contract and the DoH and the government to a large extent.

Pharmacist Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I agree with you Papa Echo. After a day of work I don't feel like talking to anyone. I just want to eat and go to bed. Our work affects our social life and relationships. We spend less time with family and kids. A very bad state of affairs. We have to work unsociable hours and get abuse from dispensers and non pharmacist managers!!

Papa Echo, Community pharmacist


Harnek Chera, Community pharmacist

This is a very serious issue and it all stems from the long standing poor contract for community pharmacy negotiated by the PSNC. We are all doing more for less (unacceptably so). Extra services like MURs require extra pharmacists to be done safely and effectively. Extra prescriptions need increased workforce to cope. Instead all we ever see is cuts. We have said it over and over again. Remuneration for safe "supply" needs increasing to reflect the workload and fees for services need to be negotiated separately. If it all keeps coming from the same pot, the money is not there to fund additional pharmacists to remove this unbearable pressure on pharmacists (and their support teams). People's health, peace of mind and sanity is being jeopardised on a daily basis by the purse string holders and that applies to everyone, owner/contractors as well as employed pharmacists and locums. We cannot look after the health of our patients if we ourselves are not healthy!

Chad Harris, Community pharmacist

Too right bud!!!


If you cant take the heat , step out of the kitchen. I am sick of moaning/passive/lazy pharmacists who constantly compalin about the conditions. Either:

1. accept things as they are
2. sell up and give an opportunity for budidng pharmacists..

Fiona Naughton, Locum pharmacist

On the contrary; my experience as a locum pharmacist is that in a number of pharmacies
it is the support staff who are 'moaning/passive/lazy'. In these workplaces I feel I am the only person putting in the effort to provide anything like an adequate pharmaceutical service to patients.


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