The Government must ensure all pharmacists have protected learning time to improve wellbeing and workforce retention, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

Speaking at a House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into the health and social care workforce yesterday (24 May), director for RPS England Ravi Sharma called for action to support current and future pharmacy staff.

Passing a policy that would ensure protected learning time for all pharmacists would be a ‘real quick win’ in improving the recruitment and retention of staff, Mr Sharma argued.

Provision for protected learning time is one of the ‘key factors’ that pharmacists are telling the RPS that would improve their wellbeing, he added.

In July, the RPS called for a 12 month-long pilot on protected learning time led by Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) to be extended across Great Britain.

Mr Sharma told MPs one of his ‘biggest concerns’ for pharmacists following the pandemic was burnout.

He pointed to survey results published by the RPS in December, which showed almost nine in 10 (89%) pharmacists are at high risk of burnout and almost a third (32%) had considered leaving the profession.

‘It’s pivotal we look to how we can support the workforce to be able to deliver the increase in demand for patients [...] and continue further to help the NHS, in particular, in the areas of Covid 19 recovery.’

‘Therefore, real risk for me is burnout and people leaving the profession over the next 12-months,’ he added.

He also called for ‘better workforce data’ and a ‘pharmacy workforce strategy’.

Mr Shama also spoke of the potential of new pharmacist independent prescribers and the ‘need for investment in the current workforce’.