The pressures of community pharmacy are becoming too much for one anonymous contractor

Came home and cried again today. I can’t do it.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said last year that worries over community pharmacy's capacity to deliver all that is being asked of it 'keep [him] awake at night'. Well, Simon, don’t worry. You’re not the only one.

Capacity, or lack thereof, is making me cry at work, cry at home and unable to sleep due to the pressure. How can I deliver all these services with barely trained staff? The turnover of staff in community pharmacy is ridiculous and I don’t blame colleagues for not sticking around. You can earn more money in a supermarket for less stress. The minimum wage increase this year will also squeeze contractors’ margins even more. 

How can I – one pharmacist – can provide the multitude of services imposed on me with little or no support? This is a horrible job, at times dealing with people who don’t want to take responsibility for themselves. It is not my fault you forgot to order your prescription and now it’s urgent. Swearing at me over the phone and making me feel like the dirt on your shoe won’t get you your medication any more quickly. Naturally, it’s so 'urgent' that you will leave it until closing time to pick it up or else you will demand it is delivered to you between 4:01 and 4:05pm. Getting shouted at daily is the norm.

Unlike GPs, there are no ‘appointments’ with the pharmacist, it’s a relentless day of demands on my time. I cannot provide the care to patients I want to, because I’m trying to get them out of the door before the next busload of people come through the door for the community pharmacist consultation service, flu jabs, emergency hormonal contraception or needle exchange.

Let’s not forget that in between all of this I’m still trying to check the bundles of prescriptions sent electronically, which the doctors said would be ready as soon as the patient walked through the door, as dispensing is the main thing keeping us afloat. There is also the small issue of getting scripts right, ie trying not to kill anyone. 

I’ve become a shadow of who I was professionally. I’m angry all the time and, I’ll be honest, I just want the patients out of the door as soon as possible. I’m suffering from symptoms of burnout – only recently listed on the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases and therefore recognised as a medical condition.

Community pharmacists are leaving the profession because they simply don’t want to work in these conditions. I do think that the apprenticeship route will succeed because there will have to be some pharmacists when the rest of us have deserted the profession for The Priory. Can the PSNC ensure funding for my treatment?