Immediate action needed to address workforce wellbeing

We're calling for urgent action following publication of our annual workforce wellbeing survey in partnership with the charity Pharmacist Support.

Nine out of ten (89%) respondents were at high risk of burnout, a figure unchanged from last year’s survey, showing ongoing high levels of workplace stress.  

Shockingly, 57% of respondents reported being frequently unable to take a rest break or were not offered a break at all.  

Seven out of ten (68%) reported their mental health and wellbeing had been negatively affected by their work or study. One in three (33%) had considered leaving their role and the same number had considered leaving the profession altogether, demonstrating high levels of disaffection. 

We're now calling for immediate action to ensure that pharmacists have access to rest breaks and are able to take them. We're also calling for governments, the NHS and employers to urgently address the workforce issues that are impacting pharmacists’ wellbeing. Actions that are required include prioritising essential work, effective workforce planning and better access to information.

There also needs to be a cultural change in the workplace environment to ensure that people feel supported and are encouraged to access wellbeing advice and resources when they need it. 

Alongside its new survey report on workforce wellbeing, we've also published a statement on the needs of the workforce, which sets out the actions that are urgently required to support the profession. 

RPS President Professor Claire Anderson said: “Our survey demonstrates the continued pressure on pharmacists and trainees across the workforce, and the need for a better workplace environment to help prevent mental health and wellbeing issues. 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.  

“Governments, the NHS and employers must take immediate action to retain the current workforce. Every pharmacist must be enabled to take a rest break during the working day: not having a break is as much a patient safety issue as it is a wellbeing issue.  

“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.

“We’re committed to working with pharmacy organisations, employers, regulators, governments and the NHS to prevent poor mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and address the workforce challenges facing our profession. Pharmacists can’t wait any longer, action must be taken now.” 

Danielle Hunt, Chief Executive of Pharmacist Support, said:  “Pharmacist Support believes urgent action must be taken to turn the tide on the continued trend of people experiencing poor mental health and wellbeing within the profession. As the profession’s independent charity, our mission is to champion the wellbeing of our pharmacy family.  

“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. Collaboration to tackle the root causes of these issues is needed urgently to start reversing the trends we have identified in the past three workforce wellbeing surveys.  

“We believe prevention should be prioritised; however, we also need to ensure that those who are experiencing difficult times are able to seek timely support. The survey highlights barriers to support that we must address, including concerns about confidentiality and lack of time to access services, as well as addressing the fact that 44% of respondents said they felt that they should be able to manage without seeking help. A culture change is needed that supports people to seek help and to remove the stigma around poor mental health.  

“Given almost 60% of respondents said they are more likely to seek support for their mental health and wellbeing from an independent charity, we as the professions independent charity must continue to do more to raise awareness of the independent and confidential support we provide.” 

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