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RPS to Brine: Give pharmacists and GPs equal support to tackle stress

RPS: Pharmacists are concerned about the impact workforce pressure could have on patient care
RPS: Pharmacists are concerned about the impact workforce pressure could have on patient care

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has urged the pharmacy minister to extend a scheme supporting GPs to tackle mental health issues to the profession.

In a letter to Steve Brine sent yesterday (July 19), the RPS called for a “whole-team approach” to supporting healthcare professionals’ health and wellbeing.

Pharmacists are “increasingly concerned” about the impact that stress and workforce pressure could have on patient care, especially with the “added psychological stresses linked to workload and financial pressures” pharmacists currently face, the RPS wrote.

Calls from pharmacy professionals to the charity Pharmacist Support's ‘Listening Friends’ helpline increased by 40% in 2017, the society claimed in the letter which – was also sent to England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, Keith Ridge.

The NHS-funded GP Health Service – which launched in January 2017 and offers free mental health support for GPs – “should be replicated for pharmacists”, the RPS stressed, “and we would be eager to work with NHS England to make this happen”.

“Pharmacists comprise the third-largest health profession and play a vital role in supporting patient safety and reducing the risk of medication errors.

“The RPS does not believe that the mental health of such an important professional group responsible for supporting patients everyday should be dependent on charitable giving,” it added.

In the letter, the RPS asked Mr Brine for details of “any plans the Department of Health and Social Care has around supporting the health and wellbeing of the healthcare workforce, including the potential extension of a service such as the GP Health Service to the pharmacy profession”.

“Putting it to the test”

Speaking to C+D today, RPS English pharmacy board chair Sandra Gidley said: “If [the new health secretary Matt Hancock] values all people in the health service that should include pharmacists, so [we’re] putting that to the test.”

Ms Gidley said securing a meeting with the pharmacy minister might be difficult, but added: “We’ve been at pains to point out that [Mr Brine] should have some engagement with the third-largest health profession”.

“It’s unthinkable he wouldn’t meet nurses or individuals [from the] Royal College of GPs.”

Read the RPS’s letter to Mr Brine here.

In May, the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group – which consists of representatives of all of the larger pharmacy chains, as well as the National Pharmacy Association – announced it will train all its medication safety officer members to spot the “warning signs of pressure“ in pharmacy staff.

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