Pharmacists are heading for burnout, with low pay and abuse highlighted as some of the main reasons behind low morale in a major new survey of primary care professionals.

Almost a third (29%) of the 24 superintendent pharmacists and the 136 employee pharmacists who responded to this question said they were considering packing up – although not due to retirement.

And nearly half (46%) of superintendent pharmacists and 70% of the 28 contractors surveyed said they were considering selling their pharmacies, with an average of 8% across both groups already having done so.

The worrying findings are presented in Cogora’s sixth Primary Concerns report, which this year takes the title of The State of Primary Care 2018 and provides an insight into the current state of the sector, this year surveying pharmacists for the first time.


Breaking point


For some, the situation is reaching fever pitch, with one pharmacist respondent saying they were showing symptoms of stress but could not afford to take time off because they owned their business. 'My staff can, which puts greater pressure on me and the other staff,' they added.

Unfortunately, this case was far from isolated. A staggering 71% of superintendent pharmacists surveyed had taken time off sick or thought it was likely they would need to in the next year.

Among contractors, the figure was 60% – and more contractors than any other job role of the 2,300 community pharmacists, GPs, practice managers and practice and community nurses surveyed had already had to have time off work through stress or burnout (19%).

Stress and burnout are spilling over to the extent that patients are feeling the effects. Around half of superintendent pharmacists (58%) and pharmacy contractors (54%) said their stress levels were having an impact on patient care.


Physical and verbal abuse


On top of these workplace pressures, pharmacists blamed verbal and sometimes physical abuse from patients, low pay and long hours for their low morale.

The vast majority of pharmacists surveyed (79%) had suffered verbal abuse, while 10% of the 135 respondents had experienced written abuse. A total of four pharmacists had encountered physical abuse in the past year and – shockingly – one had been the victim of sexual abuse.

Pharmacists also mentioned feeling undervalued by the Government as a key reason behind their dissatisfaction.

One pharmacist respondent said: ‘We are viewed as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Pharmacy has never been appreciated for what it brings to the table.’

Another said: ‘I feel pharmacists are not appreciated any longer by the Government and other institutions.

‘Patients see the importance of pharmacists but unfortunately, I feel their views are dismissed. I feel that I can better channel my energy elsewhere.’