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Pharmacy and Covid-19: How can we support one another when we’re in crisis?

By Danielle Hunt

22 Oct 2020

Danielle Hunt, chief executive of Pharmacist Support, discusses how the charity has been supporting pharmacists during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cast your mind back to 31 December 2019. How did you celebrate the turn of the decade? What were your hopes for the 12 months ahead?

For me, and I’m sure for many of you, there was hope and excitement about what a new decade could bring. Sadly, I’m sure we can all agree that it didn’t quite turn out as planned.

Due to the emergence of Covid-19, most things as we know them have been turned on their head. The healthcare profession has been presented with new challenges never experienced before. Challenges that are causing an increase in stress throughout pharmacy. From speaking with those across our pharmacy family, these range from severe disruptions to running a pharmacy during lockdown to abusive customers, and from complications with university studies, exams and placements, to anxieties about what the future holds – and of course, everything else in between. 

Concern for at-risk family members

Even before Covid-19 hit, 61% of you told us that you needed support managing stress at work and in last year’s joint wellbeing survey with the RPS, a staggering 80% of you told us you were at high or very high risk of burnout because of exhaustion. We await the results of this year’s joint survey to assess the true impact of these past 8 months on the profession and will use your feedback to shape our support moving forward.

A common challenge that many of those calling our enquiry line have faced this year is pharmacists who live with at-risk family members. We recently supported someone who lives with elderly parents, both of whom have underlying health conditions. In order to keep working, this pharmacist had been paying for a hotel room and was rapidly running out of money – as they also had to continue providing for their elderly parents. They were extremely distressed as they felt that they had only two options: give up work and stay at home with parents in order to keep them safe, or move back home owing to a lack of financial resources and continue to work, but put their parents’ lives at risk.

With our help, the client managed to secure free accommodation as part of the government package to help key frontline health care professionals and managed to get a refund from the hotel that they had been staying in for over two months.

Raising awareness

Since the start of lockdown, the charity has been very much focused on raising awareness of issues impacting pharmacists’ and pharmacy students’ wellbeing and on developing tools to help those working and studying in pharmacy to prioritise their wellbeing.

As such, this year we launched the ACTNow wellbeing campaign in partnership with key sponsors across the sector to raise awareness of pharmacy wellbeing and encourage positive action. We received a great response to the campaign and our wellbeing hub, with people telling us ‘I gained insight into methods that genuinely helped promote wellbeing, especially during this pandemic’ and that ‘it felt reassuring to have the feeling of being burnt out validated’.

One comment that particularly resonated with me was from someone who said they ‘felt less alone’. As a charity whose vision is that no one in our pharmacy family will face challenging times without us by their side, it was uplifting to know that all our hard work in responding to the pandemic had alleviated someone from the feeling of isolation.

For us to continue running and growing our vital support services, which have helped so many across our pharmacy family, we regularly hold fundraising campaigns. Unfortunately, our usual ways of fundraising have been severely impacted. So, like many charities, we’ve had to find new ways of raising these funds which are essential to deliver our support services and help those who need us the most. We recognise and appreciate that many of you across our pharmacy family who would look to support us during this time simply don’t have the time to hold fundraising activities on our behalf or aren’t able to do so due to lockdown restrictions. Instead, we’re asking anyone who would like to show their support to simply make a one-off donation to our TEAMGreen campaign. If you would like to donate, you can either visit our Just Giving page (where you can view and support our Pharmacist Support team fundraiser) or you can text TG2020 to 70970 to donate £5.

Our vision is that no one in our pharmacy family will face challenging times without us by their side – and that is true now more than ever.

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