Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Nearly a third of community pharmacists say Covid-19 has adversely impacted their mental health and wellbeing to a significant extent.

A joint study run by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Pharmacist Support charity has revealed that over half (54 per cent) of pharmacists believed the pandemic had impacted their mental health to some extent.

The survey revealed that 40 per cent of the respondents felt their mental health was ‘okay’ during the pandemic but 33 per cent said it was not good and a further 10 per cent said it was poor.

Around 72 per cent of respondents said the virus had negatively affected their mental health and wellbeing at their workplace.

Increased demand, inadequate staffing, long working hours, and a lack of breaks and time off have adversely impacted the pharmacy team members at their respective workplaces.

“This figure is comparable with the 2019 survey (74 per cent), showing that whilst Covid-19 may have exacerbated these issues, they pre-existed the pandemic,” the RPS said.

Mental health at workplace

Around 57 per cent of employers provided mental health and wellbeing support, whereas 44 per cent of pharmacists reported feeling uncomfortable about accessing it.

“Reasons given for this centred on confidentiality and trust, particularly stigma, judgement and the potential for it to harm their career. Of this group, those working in community (51 per cent) were most reluctant to access support, compared to colleagues in general practice (46 per cent) and hospital (31 per cent),” the survey showed.

A vast majority (89 per cent) reported as being at high risk of burnout – an increase from 80 per cent in from the 2019 survey. One-third (33 per cent) of respondents had considered leaving their job, while a further third (34 per cent) had considered leaving the profession.

The survey received a total of 959 responses. Over half of the respondents worked in community practice, and a fifth worked in hospital, with representation from England (76 per cent), Scotland (15 per cent) and Wales (eight per cent).

RPS president Sandra Gidley said: “We’ve all felt the consequences of extra pressures brought by the pandemic. It’s been incredibly tough and caused enormous stress and increased workloads for pharmacy teams. We need to ensure support is available for those who need it, whilst preventing problems from happening by tackling some of the root causes of poor mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

“Flexible opening hours have been enormously helpful in managing workloads and should become a permanent adaptation, rather than a short-term measure. Having the right staffing levels and skill mix in the pharmacy to support safe and effective patient care should be a given. And being able to take breaks, to relieve the pressure or for CPD to learn something new, is essential.

“Our campaigning led to access to NHS wellbeing services being granted to pharmacists and their teams for the first time. We want to see this continue beyond the pandemic and extended to include access to NHS occupational health services too. It would be deeply unjust if support for the country’s third largest health profession, who have worked so hard this year, was simply switched off once the immediate crisis is over”.

Chief executive of Pharmacist Support Danielle Hunt said: “A clear concern for us from these results is that there are a number of barriers to accessing mental health and wellbeing support for pharmacists and pharmacy students.

“Although the reasons behind this may not always be clear, a large percentage point to a lack of awareness and concerns around confidentiality and stigma. Worryingly there is also a gap in awareness amongst BAME respondents of employer or NHS-funded occupational services…”

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