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More than half of pharmacy staff do not take breaks at work, survey finds


By Isabel Shaw
Reporter

08 Dec 2021

Pharmacy bodies are calling for immediate action to ensure that pharmacists have access to rest breaks after discovering the majority of pharmacy staff do not take breaks while at work. 

According to an annual wellbeing survey, jointly conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and charity Pharmacist Support, 57% of pharmacy staff in England, Scotland and Wales frequently miss out on breaks.  

Of the 1,017 respondents from all three nations, 40% of pharmacy staff said they were offered a break by management but did not feel like they could take it and 17% not being offered a break at all.  

Claire Anderson, RPS president said the fact pharmacy staff are not taking breaks was ‘alarming’ and was ‘as much a patient safety issue as it is a wellbeing issue’.   

The survey, conducted between 23 September to 18 October 2021 also revealed that seven out of ten pharmacy staff (68%) found their mental health and wellbeing had been negatively affected by their work or study.  

Meanwhile, one in three (33%) of pharmacy staff had considered leaving their role and the same number had considered leaving the profession altogether, which the bodies said ‘demonstrates high levels of disaffection’. 

In response to the survey, RPS and Pharmacist Support have asked all three Governments, the NHS and employers to ‘urgently’ address workforce issues impacting pharmacists’ wellbeing to prevent losing workforce. 

In part, the bodies are calling for a ‘cultural change’, so that pharmacists, NHS bodies, employers, Governments, regulators, and the public recognise the ‘essential importance of taking breaks for patient safety and workforce wellbeing’. 

If a pharmacy must close to make breaks possible, these closures should be at a ‘fixed time’ and ‘advertised locally’ so that the public are aware of when services are unavailable, RPS and Pharmacy Support said. 

Ms Anderson said: ‘It’s crucial to address the root causes of poor mental health and wellbeing by driving down workplace pressures to help retain and support the pharmacy workforce.  

‘The impact of current workplace pressures on individuals, and the knock-on effect on patient care, is unacceptable. It’s truly alarming that so many pharmacists are unable to take a break during their working day and that so many have considered leaving because of their working environment.’ 

She added: ‘The pharmacy workforce is already under significant pressure at a time when it is being called on to do even more – this type of pressure is unsustainable without meaningful measures being taken to support pharmacy teams. 

‘There must be a focus on retaining the current pharmacy workforce by looking after them better, so they don’t leave the profession. We need pharmacy workplaces that are inclusive and have a culture of belonging and support wellbeing.’ 

Danielle Hunt, chief executive of Pharmacist Support, also called for ‘urgent action’ to ‘turn the tide on the continued trend of people experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing within the profession’..   

‘We know lack of breaks, high workloads and long working hours over a long period of time impacts on our stress levels and leads to poor wellbeing, so unfortunately it is not a surprise to see high levels of potential burnout. Individuals alone cannot prioritise their own wellbeing if the working environment does not support these individuals to thrive.’ 

Earlier this week, NHSE&I published an advert looking for suppliers to create a recruitment campaign to encourage people into NHS careers — including in the pharmacy sector — to help mitigate shortage issues.   

It comes after the Home Office added pharmacists, among other health and social care roles, the shortage occupation list (SOL) in March.   


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