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80% of employee pharmacists now suffering from workplace stress

Employee pharmacists told C+D their work had caused “panic attacks” and “palpitations”
Employee pharmacists told C+D their work had caused “panic attacks” and “palpitations”

Employee pharmacists across community pharmacy face stress, pressure from management and rising workloads, the C+D Salary Survey 2017 has revealed.

The results from 722 branch managers and “second or non-manager community pharmacists” who responded to the survey – which ran throughout October – show stress levels remain high across the sector.

Some 80% of employee pharmacists said they were stressed at work – an increase of six percentage points on 2015 levels, the survey shows.

Pharmacists who work for independent pharmacies or small chains experienced an 11% increase in stress between 2015 and 2017, now cited as an issue by 78%. The proportion of pharmacists employed by the biggest three multiples who experienced stress remained at 82%.

Use C+D's interactive tool to compare pay and working conditions at the three largest pharmacy multiples.

Three-quarters (75%) of employee pharmacists working for the multiples said they experienced “pressure from management”, compared with 40% of those working for independents or small chains. Overall, 60% of pharmacists said they experienced pressure from management.

While 14% of pharmacists working for independents experienced “intimidation from management”, this rose to 40% for pharmacists working at the multiples.

The proportion of branch and non-manager pharmacists suffering from depression also differed between workplaces, with 23% of pharmacists at independents affected, compared with 36% at multiples.

Another common problem experienced by employee pharmacists was “increased paperwork”, which affected 64% of all respondents.

Employee pharmacists from across the sector told C+D their work had caused them issues including “panic attacks”, “palpitations”, “tension headaches” and “musculoskeletal pain”.

In their own words: How high are your stress levels?”

“We have to change tasks too often on the spot. One minute: check a script for a baby; interrupted to do a flu jab; then methadone supervision; then a clinical test; then diagnose a child's condition.”

“[There is] pressure to meet targets no matter what.”

“If I let my workload get the better of me, I would suffer from high stress. But I try to stay positive and smile through it all, and do overtime.”

For support and advice on mental health and wellbeing, visit the Pharmacist Support website here. For specific stress and wellbeing support, contact the charity’s ‘Listening Friends’ scheme here.


Use our interactive tool below to compare pay and working conditions at the three largest pharmacy multiples.

How do you deal with stress in the workplace?

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

I recently resigned from my role as a pharmacy manager for a large multiple due to extreme stress. I had new jobs given to me on an almost weekly basis, was constantly asked about mur/nms performance whilst being expected to manage every other aspect of the pharmacy. I was either top or second on my region for murs for the majority of the time yet was rated as poor, and given no bonus as a result. I was offered support, but it never materialised hence I am now working in a different role. I always enjoyed my time with customers and patients but was constantly aware that only the bottom line counts. Is pharmacy really about healthcare or profits? I think everyone here knows the answer to that question. I appreciate that these big companies need to make profit but the current situation needs to be looked at, we are here to help people, not line the pockets of international shareholders. I don't expect a massive wage or else I would have gone into finance. But I would like to help people and do my job without someone calling me via their Bluetooth dongle from their company BMW (who isn't a pharmacist and probably came from Aldi).

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

If you take the job, the contractual implication is you will align yourself with company onjectives, there is a commercial reality out there and you can't act in isolation. Congratulations to you for finding another job, hope the new job will suit you better.

Locum Morgan, Locum pharmacist

I think that we all need to slow down a lot and fully complete one task at a time. 

1. During MURs, try to take a full 20 minutes at least (the contractor receives £28 so that more than covers an hour's wages). Forbid dispensers to interupt and take another 10 - 15 minutes to write the MUR up afterwards. 

2. Set a minimum waiting time of 20 minutes for all walk in scripts. 

3. Adopt a first come, first served policy for all customers. When surgery collected script patients call in, particularly for time consuming blister packs, ask for an hour's waiting time whilst they also wait (or go to the back of the queue again) or simply offer the script to the person to take to a different pharmacy who can dispense faster. 

Never race or stress to finish huge volumes of scripts by the end of the day. If there's a disproportionate number for the following morning, then all the following day's pharmacist need do is telephone the Area Manager and ask for a second pharmacist to share the workload. If they refuse, work slower than ever and offer all patients their scripts back to take elsewhere. 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

This says a lot about the state of affairs these days - making paients wait longer because the pharmacist can't work fast enough, yes that happened in the last store I worked in with a newly employed former locum pharmacist. Once, when I arrived at the pharmacy, I saw a patient complaining that she had to wait 45 minutes for a few paracetamol tablets, and he responded by a lengthy explanation of 'his' dispensing process during which time I compeleted 6 dispenses.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Yes, I have seen a few newly qualified MSc 'clinical' pharmacists stressing over things that won’t bother me. Those who spend a large part of their working lives reading and re-reading the BNF. They are the cause of my stress, not my employer.

M Yang, Community pharmacist

80% in multiples versus 40% in independents? Be careful how you view these figures. I doubt there is a pharmacist somewhere who is completely stress free. Same goes for any occupation.

Everyone goes through periods of stress. For some, it may only be days or weeks here and there when the workload increases or when a colleague falls ill and everyone else needs to work harder to plug the gap. My stress working at Boots was amplified by knowing that the management didn't care about or acknowledge the incredibly tough conditions we were working in. Contrast this with the work I do as a locum for independents. No matter how heavy the workload gets, I know I can take a breath and catch a tea break now and then to gather my wits, without anyone booking me in for wanting a rest.

We can accept stress, but poor morale is another thing.

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Thsi article is old news - I've lost track of the number of articles highlighting pharmacist salary/workload/stress etc. It will make news when there's a petition taken to parliament to change something or we exit the GPhC/RPS! How about running another article in the Guardian to show how little has changed even when everything was highlighted in the public domain?? Sickening that it's not taken more seriously - it is going to take a mjor incident to highlight this disease that is now within the pharmacy profession.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Lazy journalism, clickbait almost. Highlighting the perpertrators is out of the question it seems so we will keep getting this silly articles about pressures by 'unknown' multiples with a few adverts from said multiples thrown in for good measure.

janet revers, Community pharmacist

I would like news.....not history!!!


Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Only 80%?

How High?, Community pharmacist

So we're stressed? Surprise, surprise.

Isn't everyone at least some of the time? And are we actually stressed all the time or are we guilty of milking a bad 10 minutes for the whole day?

Now how about a comparative survey of say GPs, Hospital Consultants, Midwives, Nurses etc? Just to see where we actually stand in the grand scheme....

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Is your area manager standing behind you ?

Rubicon Mango, Academic pharmacist

GERMANY:- Pharmacies can only be owned by a Pharmacist, Pharmacist have to take a break during lunch, this is taken very seriously. Pharmacies cannot be owned, operated, worked in or regulated by anyone who is not trained in the field of Pharmacy. Again they take this very seriously. Pharmacy opening hours are short and all are closed on Sundays due to the culture of having a day off for family. Pharmacists are seen as the prescribing police and can effectively overule doctors and physcians if they see inappropraite prescribing that compromises patient safety. Most Pharmacists work a 35-hour week or do a 70 hour week and then take the next week off. Pharmacists are also called upon regularly to form treatment plans with patients and are involved on a clinical scale as well to aid the nations health promotional programme.

Considering 70 years ago, this country was on its knees due to the after effects of the war, the advacement is amazing, yet here we are, good old UK with its short-sightedness, corporate greed and poor leadership in the GPhC and RPS.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Greed and corruption.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Truck drivers - no more than 9hrs work a day and a break of 45 mins every 4.5hrs. Isn't dispensing potentially lethal medications all day as dangerous and as tiring as driving?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

How about writing a letter to the GPhC or RPS instead of the same old annual question of how to counter the minefield that is community pharmacy? 

You had the ba**s to write to the BMA so what is stopping you ? 

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist


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