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‘Real travesty’ if pharmacy’s work during pandemic is forgotten, MPs told

Consultation with patient

By Isabel Shaw
Reporter

09 Jun 2021

Pharmacists felt ‘under-recognised and undervalued’ during the pandemic and it will be a ‘real travesty’ if their work is forgotten, the Health and Social Care Committee has heard.

In a report published yesterday (8 June), the Committee said its inquiry on burnout had heard from multiple health and care workers, including an anonymous pharmacist who said despite staying open throughout the pandemic the sector felt ‘very underrecognised’ and ‘undervalued’.

The pharmacist also compared the sector to a ‘hidden sponge’ that had ‘soaked up a large number of people that would otherwise have presented at A&E or a GP practice’, adding that it would be a ‘real travesty’ should that work be forgotten.

The inquiry found that the Covid-19 pandemic had increased already high levels of workforce pressures ‘exponentially’ across both the health and social care sectors; which it said pose an ‘extraordinarily dangerous risk’ to the future of services.

MPs primarily attributed ‘chronic excessive workload’ to the widespread burnout within the two industries, with staff shortages identified as ‘the most important factor in determining chronic excessive workload’.

The report also flagged discrimination as a factor in burnout, with evidence submitted by the King’s Fund highlighting that Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in the NHS reported worse ‘and often shocking’ experiences compared with White staff.

Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said the report underlines ‘yet again how urgent it is that healthcare teams get the support they need’.

‘The Committee highlights several issues we know all play a part in workforce wellbeing, including having the right skill mix and enough staff to manage workload, support from employers and being able to take a break when you need one,’ Ms Anderson said.

‘The report’s findings on the impact of discrimination are really concerning and underline why it’s vital we drive a change in culture across the health service and make the pharmacy profession more inclusive.’

She added: ‘Addressing the root causes of staff burnout and tackling discrimination will need concerted action from across the health service. Today’s report shows how the Government, NHS, employers and leaders across pharmacy must work together to support staff so they can keep looking after patients.’

The Committee called for immediate action to support the ‘exhausted workforce’, including a ‘total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning.’

‘After the pandemic, which revealed so many critical staff shortages, the least we can do for staff is to show there is a long-term solution to those shortages, ultimately the biggest driver of burnout,’ the report added.

A recent survey by the Community Pharmacy Workforce Development Group (CPWDG) found a 9% FTE pharmacist vacancy rate across England, with this rising significantly to 15% in the South East and 18% in the South West. It also found those pharmacist vacancies were open ‘for around 26 weeks’ on average.


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