Newly-elected English pharmacy board member Hemant Patel wrote to the RPS last week (June 16), to “demand that the new contract for community pharmacy includes adequate resources” to deal with the “soaring problem of psychological stress within the pharmacy profession”.
Mr Patel has also asked the RPS to write to pharmacy minister Steve Brine to “seek equity” for pharmacists and GPs when it comes to mental health support.
GPs have had free mental health support since the launch of the NHS GP Health Service in January 2017. NHS England has also earmarked £19.5 million in funding to support GPs who need mental health support.
“What is good and necessary for GPs should also be good and necessary for community pharmacy,” Mr Patel said.
“Community pharmacy, like GPs, as NHS providers have an independent contractor status and should make a strong case – based on evidence of stress and [its] negative impact on [patient] care in community pharmacies.”
“NHS framework should recognise pharmacists”
Mr Patel called for the NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework – which NHS England launched in May and sets out “what NHS organisations need to do to support staff” – to also recognise “pharmacists’ resilience as a resource in the context of work pressures…and become part of the new contractual framework for community pharmacy”.
Mr Patel said the RPS should make pharmacists’ health and wellbeing “part of the remit of the director of pharmacy and membership services”, Robbie Turner.
Pharmacists “withdrawing into a shell”
There is “anecdotal evidence” of the impact of pharmacists reacting to stress, including pharmacists “drinking or smoking more, snapping at colleagues and customers, and withdrawing into a shell”, Mr Patel said.
The RPS “must act with urgency to protect the public interest as well as the professional”, he said.
In December the C+D Salary Survey 2017 found 80% of employee pharmacists said they were stressed at work, an increase of six percentage points on 2015 levels.