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'Exhausted pharmacists may end up getting the respect they deserve'

"The healthcare world is making unprecedented changes"

Pharmacists are war-weary from handling the impact of COVID-19 but their efforts may finally earn them recognition, says Laura Buckley

It is safe to say we’re sailing in unchartered waters with the COVID-19 pandemic. What with staff shortages, pharmacy closures and funding cuts, community pharmacy is not in the best place it could be to provide the medicines to the poorly and the self-isolating. Some might say the sector is ‘up the creek without a paddle’.

As a primary care network (PCN) pharmacist who has also been working in a community pharmacy, I’ve seen the effect of the current crisis from two different angles. From community pharmacies inundated with excessive over-the-counter medicine requests, to GP practices triaging patients before permitting entry to their waiting rooms, the healthcare world is making unprecedented changes.

In the early days of the pandemic, our sector was feeling ready to rise to the challenge, despite awareness of our lack of resources and a distinct feeling that we were already functioning at capacity. We were ready to face our patients head on and put their need for medicines and health advice above any fears we might have had about COVID-19.

But now, we feel war-weary. We’re exhausted, working long hours that won’t be reimbursed. Despite teetering on the edge of emotional outbursts, we continue to soldier on in the wake of the most significant healthcare crisis in recent years.

In my job as a PCN pharmacist, I’m seeing extraordinary volumes of work. Patients are requesting several months of prescriptions, medicines for asthma they haven’t had since 1993, and panic-ordering things they don’t need. Our workload is building.

The staff morale isn’t the best it has been and we are all feeling the strain of not managing to overcome the growing mountain of tasks on our screens. Daily abuse from patients on the phones and at the GP reception desk is wearing us thin and yet we continue to remain professional in the face of adversity. Things are far from plain sailing. The demands on our healthcare teams are changing daily.

The disappointing lack of direct mention of pharmacy in the government definition of “key workers” and a lack of address by the Prime Minister [until March 29] were disheartening –blows that demonstrated a historical lack of recognition for our sector. The General Pharmaceutical Council is reappointing pharmacists to the register who left the register within the last three years – it is an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep us sailing.

I’m truly amazed by my colleagues across the UK. Seeing the hard work that each pharmacy team is putting into their patients is truly heart-warming. Teams are going above and beyond: they’re volunteering where they ought to be paid; working in new places; doing new tasks; and learning new skills to face up to the impact of the virus.

A largely unrecognised sector is keeping healthcare in the community going and I am proud to be a pharmacist on the frontline. In a few months’ time, when things have settled, perhaps the world will look at pharmacy with the respect we so rightly deserve.

Laura Buckley is a locum pharmacist based in Hull


Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Any respect will be very short lived indeed.  After Caroline Flack sadly took her own life there was a movement urging us all to "be kind" - that soon disappeared in the rush to hoard toilet rolls and ensure that "I" am alright at the expense of everyone else.  The same will apply to community pharmacies - the little respect being shown by a minority of patients will soon evaporate.

Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

You can say whatever you want. You can look forever for the respect we deserve. But the truth is salty. There is no respect. and if you haven't got it by won't get in regards to community pharmacy.

Besides the future of healthcare is not within community. Soon the internet will take over and we'll just be selling bits and pieces doing minimal dispensing.

Pharmacy will essentially move full time into surgeries who get funded to keep a 50k pharmacist...wake up guys. this is the reality.

And MPs don't care who labels their box. That's why they don't see eye to eye with us.

Sunil Gupta, Community pharmacist

Absolutely no chance!!

Angry Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

£19/£20 per hour for 4 years of hard work and a pre-registration year.....

'Respect and recognition' Lol.



Ian Scott, Primary care pharmacist

And PSNC now insist that we open fully Good Friday and easter Monday!!!

Dara Hughes, Community pharmacist

Laura. Thanks for saying it how it is but also for the great pride you show in being a pharmacist. It’s refreshing and inspiring in these times. 

A fellow pharmacist

Laura Buckley, Community pharmacist


Greatly Pedantic and Highly Clueless, Senior Management

At least some people have some concern for the welfare for community pharmacists.

I note they didn't quote the GPhC. They'd probably only complain about locums charging more than £20 an hour, anyway. 

Another Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Respected by the public. Maybe. Respected by the NHS. Perhaps. Respected by multiple area managers. Not on your life!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist


Respect is great but I don't think it's accepted as valid currency in any retail outlet that I'm aware of.

Update : I tried to buy my groceries at the weekend with this new 'respect'. It was politely declined. Most disappointing. 

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