Parental leave and returning to work

by Elen Jones, Director for RPS Wales, and Robbie Turner, RPS Director of Pharmacy and Member Experience

Elen Jones

Elen: Swapping the baby wipes, nappies and the bottles for policies, business plans and strategic meetings.

Maternity leave is over. In a blink of an eye, my baby boy is babbling away and walking round the furniture. He’s nine months, I just about feel like I’m getting to grips with being a mum of two and all of a sudden, it’s time to go back to work.

It’s been amazing to spend so much time with the boys; watching the little one develop and being able to take my eldest to school every day as he starts nursery has been brilliant. On the flip side, it’s often felt chaotic. The demands of two children are something else!

Three weeks into maternity leave I attended an interview and was fortunate enough to get a new role as Director of RPS Wales. 

It’s such a privilege to be returning to work and starting this role. I definitely had huge anxiety during the days leading up to my return. How will we cope with getting the boys to nursery and all be out the door by 8am? How will I catch up on the last 9 months? RPS think I’m the right person for the job, but what will members and my team really think? Impostor syndrome was creeping in! I did check out the RPS Return to Practice guide which helped allay some of my worries. I’ve been back in work for two weeks, and I miss my boys very much. Fortunately, my youngest has settled into nursery quite well (better than his big brother did!)

If I’m really honest, I’m actually feeling more like me again. I’m back to feeling more in control, enthused by the work and by my colleagues.  I’m full of ideas, getting out there and speaking to like-minded pharmacists. I’ve caught up with lots of our members already, everyone’s been so kind and supportive.

The sleepless nights unfortunately don’t stop when you return to work, but I don’t mind them as much now, time with the boys has become more precious. I so look forward to getting back from work to their big smiles and hugs.

So, a big thank you to all my colleagues and our amazing members for all the support and your patience while I’ve been away! I look forward to working with you all to make sure RPS and pharmacy continue to go from strength to strength.

Robbie Turner

Robbie: This year I’m going to get an extra three months off work. And, I’ve been surprisingly anxious about it.

Not that pre-holiday anxious when you’re trying to work out exactly how much ludicrously expensive sun cream to pack so you don’t need to bring any back with you. No, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe but I bet there are millions or people (mainly women) who have experienced it even more deeply than me.

My partner Ben and I are soon (everything crossed) going to adopt two children. We’ve been aiming to make this a reality for over a year now. A big thank you to work friends and colleagues who have given me support and advice over the last year. Your words of encouragement have been hugely helpful. But, nobody warned me about this bit – preparing for paternity leave.

I know we’re lucky at RPS to have a good paternity leave entitlement. As part of our work on inclusion and diversity we identified that our gender pay gap was too high and introducing paternity pay was one of the tools we put in place to start to be a better employer for both men and women. Check out this article “Men’s parental leave is key to women’s progression

I’d like to think that I’ve always been supportive of women (and I think it has always been women who’ve taken any form of parental leave in my teams) when they announce the news that they are pregnant. I’ve cried a few times, but that’s always been with excitement rather than thinking about covering their maternity leave! I know this isn’t the experience of lots of women and that’s one of the reasons why I’m committed to taking my full paternity allowance. What I’ve never considered is what could be going through an expectant mother’s mind when they’re thinking about taking parental leave. And I now have a small insight into both their perceptions AND the realities..

I work with a great team who are brilliant at their jobs.  Even then, I’m worried about the added pressure me going off for three months will put on them.  BUT, when I really reflect, my main worry is the complete opposite. It’s that I will get found out as a bit of a fraud. That everyone will cope just fine without me or (arghhhhh) that it will be even better when I’m not here interfering and distracting people. Will I still have a job at the end of it all? How much will the world of pharmacy have moved on – will I be able to catch back up?

So, if I’m feeling like this – a (fairly confident), white man, in a senior role, only going on paternity leave for three months – then what must it be like for others who don’t have the same privilege of gender, colour, or seniority facing up to a year away from the work place?

Now, when women (and increasingly, men) tell me their great news about their pregnancy or adoption I’ll be just as excited but I’ll also understand how stressful planning for parental leave can be. Wish me luck!

Are you returning to practice? Check out our Return to Practice guide which is packed full of practical advice and tips to help you return to the workplace with confidence.

Help us tell your stories

By Sandra Gidley, RPS President

Pharmacists are highly trained and knowledgeable health professionals. We are available without appointment in our local communities and are on hand in our hospitals to advise patients and doctors on the safe and effective use of medicine.  Many people really value and often rely on their pharmacist to help to keep them well, so I was disappointed to see an opportunity to highlight the valuable role they play completely missed by ITV on its This Morning show last week.

And I was obviously not alone. Many people were moved to raise their concerns with Ofcom, with over 2,300 complaints made over the weekend. It’s no surprise to me that so many people felt so strongly. As pharmacists we are committed to supporting people to live healthy lives, to advise and treat many of the illnesses and conditions that they face. What did surprise me though was how out of touch and misinformed the guests on the show were about what pharmacists actually do.

For some, a big part of the role may be dispensing prescriptions and other medicines, but there is so much more to our jobs. One of the privileges of my position is that I see first-hand that pharmacists are going the extra mile every day. Pharmacists make sure that people – whether they are suffering from a long-term condition, fighting a one-off illness or perfectly healthy – are receiving the best quality of care and medical information possible.

There is strong evidence for our role in helping people to stop smoking and we are well equipped to advise about alcohol use and weight management in a sensitive and discreet way. We can help people stay healthy, avoid having to visit their GP and stay out of hospital, we support the earlier detection of long-term conditions, and we provide easy access to expert advice on medicines. We work in the community, hospitals, GP surgeries, care homes, prisons and lots of other sectors. And I could go on….

RPS has taken immediate action to counter the comments made last Friday and you can be assured that we will continue to champion the role of pharmacists, challenging misconceptions and promoting the great work that you do day in and day out.

But we can’t do this without you. We need you to tell us your stories, what you do every day, so we can shine a light on the profession’s achievements. Get in touch on TwitterInstagram or Facebook and share your  stories using #WeArePharmacy.

Together, we are pharmacy.

Championing the wellbeing of the profession

Pharmacist Support Trustees and Staff Chief Executive, Danielle Hunt

By Danielle Hunt, Pharmacist Support

For those unfamiliar with Pharmacist Support – we’re the profession’s independent charity supporting pharmacists and their families, former pharmacists and pharmacy students in times of need.

In the past 10 years we’ve seen the number of acts of support the charity has been called upon to provide increase from over 700 in 2008 to over 7,000 in 2018. As we’ve grown and developed as a charity – so have the pressures. Although this is something we’ve been monitoring over the years through enquiries and service use, in May of this year we felt that the time was right to reach out to the profession once again, and to ask more generally about the issues and the challenges causing you the most stress today.

Through an online survey and series of in-depth interviews you told us that you needed support with stress at work, with work-life balance and with managing your wellbeing. In October we joined forces with the RPS as part of their workforce wellbeing campaign to dig a little deeper into these issues. You highlighted that this stress was linked to unrealistic expectations, leading to concerns around making mistakes and burnout.

Back in 2013 the charity recognised a need for more proactive support and following receipt of a large legacy from Pharmacist Robert Wardley, set about researching, piloting and launching a new wellbeing service. This service – delivered in a workshop format – consisted of information to help individuals understand the importance of wellbeing, recognise the signs and symptoms of stress in themselves and others and to provide tools and techniques to help manage those pressures. To date this service – now made up of workshops covering resilience, time management and assertiveness, webinars and fact sheets – has supported thousands of individuals (students and pharmacists) across the profession – almost 5,000 acts of wellbeing support in total.

Another part of this wellbeing support is our Listening Friends stress helpline. Staffed by trained volunteers who are pharmacists, this service provides a listening ear to individuals struggling with a range of personal and professional issues. In the last 10 years these dedicated volunteers have made over 2,700 calls to colleagues in stress & been able to help them navigate their way through many challenging situations.

Monitoring and understanding these pressures helps us ensure the charity’s services remain relevant and useful and the information we’ve gathered and you’ve provided through these surveys has informed the development our new 5 year strategy. Moving forward Pharmacist Support will be looking to further develop and shape our proactive wellbeing support and will aim to champion the wellbeing of those in the pharmacy profession alongside partners like the RPS.

So, thank you for your input over this past year. We look forward to sharing our new strategy with you and hope that you’ll join us on this new phase of our journey!

Your Mental Health Matters

By Ravi Sharma, Director of England, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Like with any profession, the mental health and wellbeing of a workforce is paramount to being successful. As pharmacists, we have a duty to provide the best possible care for patients and I realise this means our job becomes very intense and stressful at times. We know that pharmacists continue to work tirelessly on the frontline every single day to help improve patient care, safety and reducing pressures on the NHS.

New research

Our recent research with Pharmacist Support to investigate workplace pressures has been very revealing and shocking. With over 1300 responses to our survey in just two weeks, we know that this is a topic people really care about, with nearly 75% of pharmacist saying their workplace environment has negatively impacted their mental health and wellbeing. As a staggering 80% of respondents also highlighted that they are at high or very high risk of burnout because of exhaustion and a further 44% concerned about potentially making mistakes or providing poor quality to patients, the magnitude of the problem is much more significant. We have released our initial survey findings which indicates the problem and our full report will be published in the spring next year.

What next

This is a real problem which needs to be addressed by the government immediately. The RPS is calling for access to NHS commissioned mental health and wellbeing services to cover all pharmacists working in any area of practice, just like what all doctors and dentists are entitled to. What we need to understand is the root causes to these problems and why the health and wellbeing of pharmacists is compromised. This will enable preventive measures to be put into place. We will be engaging with key stakeholders and our members in the new year to help understand the causes and the best solutions.

Having recently written to the Secretary of State for Health calling for pharmacist’s wellbeing to be supported more proactively, we hope this is a key issue for the government to address. We will continue to lobby and fight for pharmacists and ensure that the newly formed government tackles this as a priority.

Our aim is to ensure we can look after our pharmacists. We need to work with and listen to our members and form key relationships with stakeholders to produce a brighter future for the workforce. Together, we can make a real difference for our profession.

General Election 2019 – A bright future for pharmacy?

By Sandra Gidley, RPS President

The NHS has become a key political battlefield and is featuring prominently in party political manifestos. With the election just a week away, what’s being promised by the parties and what does the future hold for pharmacy?

No crystal ball

We want to ensure that the role of pharmacists and the wider profession in delivering safe and effective healthcare becomes a central tenet of health policy. Our manifesto sets out some of our key campaigns such as patient safety, medicine shortages and growing pressures on the workforce.

We want the next UK Government to invest in pharmacy to maximise its contribution to healthcare. We want to see patient access to medicines secured in a complex global market and a clear future relationship with the EU (and the rest of the rest of the world) to make this happen.

Greater investment in the training and education of pharmacists is also vital. We have made it clear that this should be a key element of any future workforce strategy. We also want to ensure that patients benefit from advances in medicines and therapies. With growing pressures on workforce, the next government must expand health and wellbeing support to pharmacists and all health professionals delivering NHS services.

Positive signs

The political party manifestos offer some hope in achieving our calls to action and for delivering on key issues that we have long campaigned for. Our call to scrap prescription charges in England in line with Scotland and Wales is being echoed in the current political battles. Recognition of the pharmacy workforce across the NHS and particularly in primary care has emerged as a key health policy issue. Acknowledgement of evidence-based medicines and harnessing the potential of new medicinal products is also featuring in political dialogue in the run up to the election.

For further information about the pledges being made on healthcare by the main political parties, please see our handy summary guide.

Your voice counts

The clock is ticking but there is still time to have your voice heard. Why not encourage election candidates to show their support for pharmacy by using the RPS general election toolkit? Get in touch with your local candidates and invite them to a pharmacy visit to discuss the future role of pharmacy. You could also get involved in the social media conversations about the election, look out for #votepharmacy.

This election is a vitally important one. It is crucial that the main political parties back and support pharmacists and pharmacy services. As a pharmacist, please do make your voice heard and together, lets create a bright future for pharmacy.  

General Election 2019 – The Party Manifestos

by Jonathan Bisby

Like with any general election, the NHS is always a key battleground. Promises on healthcare from the political parties in their recently published manifestos has grabbed headlines as they attempt to secure votes. Here are some of the main manifesto promises that the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and other parties have made during this year’s election campaign:

Funding

Conservatives

  • £34 billion extra funding a year for the NHS by 2023-24
  • £750 million a year funding to provide 50,000 more nurses in the next parliament
  • Maintenance grants of between £5,000 and £8,000 a year for student nurses

Labour

  • A pledge to spend £28 for every pound that the Conservatives have pledged
  • Increase expenditure across the health sector by an average of 4.3% a year
  • A promise of a ‘lifetime cap’ on personal contributions towards care costs

Liberal Democrats

  • £7 billion additional funding to the NHS
  • A penny on income tax for the NHS and raise £35bn to spend on the NHS and social care
  • Bursaries for nursing students studying specialties where shortages are most acute

Access to services and medicines

Conservatives

  • Upgrades on six hospitals by 2025 and a commitment to start building new ones over the next decade
  • Free hospital parking in England for NHS staff and some patients
  • A commitment to make the UK the leading global hub for life sciences after Brexit and to work collaboratively internationally and with the EU on scientific research, including Horizon

Labour

  • Abolish prescription charges in England
  • Establish a generic drug company to improve fair prices on medicines
  • They have promised to stabilise overstretched A&E departments and improve stroke, heart disease and cancer survival rates by providing earlier diagnosis and improved screening rates
  • Progress the clinically appropriate prescription of medicinal cannabis

Liberal Democrats

  • £10 billion capital fund to upgrade facilities and equipment in hospitals and NHS buildings
  • A pledge to increase mental health services and provisions and reduce waiting times for these services by reforming the Health and Social Care Act and end what they call automatic tendering of health services
  • They will increase access to medicinal drugs on prescription, such as medicinal cannabis, drawing on international evidence to establish a clear evidence base for research in the UK

Workforce

Conservatives

  • A commitment to increase the number of GP posts from 3,500 to 4,000 from 2021/22 and create an extra 50 million appointments in general practice by 2024/25.
  • NHS Visa for trained nurses and other health professionals coming into the country to make it easier to enter, but no similar pledge to social care
  • Delivery of the NHS People Plan with a commitment to recruit 6,000 more health professionals into primary care, which includes pharmacists, retain skilled workers within the current workforce and improve staff morale

Labour

  • Pledge to ensure that community pharmacy is supported
  • They will increase of 5,000 fully qualifies GPs into the NHS
  • Create an NHS working environment that is ‘safe, flexible and free from harassment, bullying or violence’

Liberal Democrats

  • Retain free movement of workers by preventing the UK from leaving the European Union and supporting the current European GP workforce and attract more GPs to work in this country
  • End the shortfall of GPs by 2025, pharmacy was mentioned as a profession which they will make greater appropriate use of
  • Expand GP training places to 5,000 by the end of the next parliament

The Scottish National Party is calling for the next government to invest significantly in the NHS and have promised to boost Scotland’s budget for the NHS by £4 billion over the course of the next Parliament. They will also introduce the NHS Protection Act, which they say will protect the health service from any future trade deals in Scotland.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru are planning for an overhaul of healthcare and have pledged to provide 1,000 extra doctors, 5,000 nurses and 100 dentists to be trained and integrated into the Welsh NHS. They are also calling for free social care at the point of need for elder people in society, estimating that this will cost the Welsh Government £300 million a year. A 5% increase pledge in mental health spending over the next decade is also a significant announcement.

The Green Party have also announced that they will increase funding to the NHS by at least £6 billion each year until 2030 and ensure that mental health care is put on an equal footing with physical health care. They will add a further £1 billion a year into nursing education, as well as reinstating nursing bursaries for students.

We are calling for the political parties to support pharmacy. Take a look at the RPS General Election Toolkit and our general election blog. This is an opportunity for you to have your say and help make the voice of the profession heard.

The future is accessible

by Helen Reilly, Head of External Relations, RPS in Scotland

This International Day of People with Disabilities, I attended Inclusion Scotland’s The Future is Accessible 2019 event on behalf of RPS. I wanted to find out about the practical things that employers can do to help reduce the disability employment gap.  

In Scotland, data shows that in 2018 the employment rate for those classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 was 45.6 per cent which is significantly lower than the employment rate for non-disabled people (81.1 per cent). Scottish Government has committed to halving the disability employment gap by 2038.

Workplace benefits

By delivering more inclusive workplaces and improving employment practice for disabled people employers can secure a range of benefits. A more diverse workforce provides a wider perspective, offering insights for decision-making, and leading to the delivery of services that better meet the needs of all people.

At the event we heard from a number of employers about their positive experiences of recruiting an Inclusion Scotland intern and the benefits this brought to the whole team. We also heard from those with lived experience of the barriers faced by disabled people seeking employment. 

Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi, a previous intern from Evenbreak, told us ” The truth is that we’re innovators, creative-thinkers and problem solvers. So it’s time to rethink recruitment strategies to benefit your organisation – are you missing out on untapped talent?”

Small changes matter

There are some small and simple changes that organisations can make to their recruitment processes and ways of working to make their workplace more accessible for disabled employees. These include looking at working hours, increasing flexibility and offering interview support. 

There were also presentations from interns about their employment journeys and the opportunities that getting work experience opened up for them. Mags Moore of Sopra Steria saw their intern gain confidence and become a valued member of the team. 

She said, “There is an amazing talent pool waiting to get a foot on the employment ladder. You can give them that chance”.

Disability Confident

Diversity and inclusion is important at all levels in the workplace as it helps employees to feel accepted and valued. Staff who feel valued and supported are more likely to give their best and be motivated to be more productive, creative and innovative. This is why RPS has committed to improving how we recruit, retain and develop people with disabilities by signing up to the Disability Confident scheme, which supports employers to make the most of the talents people with disabilities can bring to the workplace.

Mags Moore told us that she believed that TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More and I think this is a very fitting reflection of how diversity in the workplace benefits everyone.

Just started a new job? Or is work a bit tough? You might benefit from a mentor

By Prof Nina Barnett, FRPharmS

Mentoring is an excellent way of providing guidance and support for pharmacists at any time in their career, from being new to the profession or thinking of changing sector to dealing with difficult work situations or reflecting on the avenues open to maintain an optimal work-life balance.

Mentoring is often defined as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The activities involved can be varied and the scope can be wide. For example, the term can refer to a relationship in which the mentor provides guidance on development in general or on specific topics. It can also overlap with coaching, career guidance, support by peers and tutoring.

The term “mentoring” is sometimes used to describe the relationship between a tutor and tutee. The terminology can be confusing in pharmacy because for preregistration trainees, the tutor could be considered as a “qualification mentor” due to the regulatory requirement for guidance through a programme of study leading to a professional qualification. In addition, some trainees have both tutors and mentors.
In fact, mentors do not have to be experts or teachers. For example, peer mentoring relationships focus on mentee self-directed outcomes and the mentor is not a tutor but rather uses a facilitative approach to help mentees achieve their goals. Indeed, a pharmacist who is newly registered can be an effective mentor for a preregistration trainee because they will have recent experience of the preregistration year and of the examination.

Mentoring means different things to different people. To ensure a successful mentoring relationship, it is important understand the purpose of each mentoring relationship, both in relation to what the mentee wants to achieve and what the mentor can offer.

Mentoring is an excellent way of providing guidance and support for pharmacists at any time in their career, from being new to the profession or thinking of changing sector to dealing with difficult work situations or reflecting on the avenues open to maintain an optimal work-life balance.
Mentoring is often defined as a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The activities involved can be varied and the scope can be wide. For example, the term can refer to a relationship in which the mentor provides guidance on development in general or on specific topics. It can also overlap with coaching, career guidance, support by peers and tutoring.

The term “mentoring” is sometimes used to describe the relationship between a tutor and tutee. The terminology can be confusing in pharmacy because for preregistration trainees, the tutor could be considered as a “qualification mentor” due to the regulatory requirement for guidance through a programme of study leading to a professional qualification. In addition, some trainees have both tutors and mentors.
In fact, mentors do not have to be experts or teachers. For example, peer mentoring relationships focus on mentee self-directed outcomes and the mentor is not a tutor but rather uses a facilitative approach to help mentees achieve their goals. Indeed, a pharmacist who is newly registered can be an effective mentor for a preregistration trainee because they will have recent experience of the preregistration year and of the examination.

Mentoring means different things to different people. To ensure a successful mentoring relationship, it is important understand the purpose of each mentoring relationship, both in relation to what the mentee wants to achieve and what the mentor can offer.

Benefits to mentees
Being mentored allows the mentee to improve their understanding of work issues and to be exposed to different approaches to dealing with them. The mentor can be used as a sounding board for ideas and, because the relationship and conversations are confidential, the mentee can speak freely without fear of repercussions.
Information can be disclosed privately to a mentor who, coming from a similar environment, will be able to understand and empathise. Alternatively, the mentee might choose to be mentored by someone in a different sector in order to expand their horizons.

One specialist pharmacist in mental health was mentored as a junior pharmacist and, said: “Mentoring provided me with support and practical advice on how to deal with challenging situations, and gave me an insight on how to develop my career path and make use of my strengths and weaknesses.”

Most people who have been mentored describe an increase in confidence as one of the key benefits. One pharmacist, prescriber in a senior hospital-based clinical role benefited from mentoring when they became a pharmacist prescriber, explained:

Although I was very confident and experienced as a pharmacist practitioner, I was new to pharmacist prescribing. I wanted a mentor for support and to guide me through training and in my role as a new prescriber… Through mentoring I was able to address the challenges of a new prescriber, which included defining my scope of practice in order to maximise patient contribution and ensuring my prescribing was safe and effective.”

As well as offering opportunities for self-learning, mentoring can also help mentees focus on their priorities. One pharmacist, with an existing career in across a range of pharmacy sectors contacted the RPS to find support with the career direction change. They said: “Over the years, I have found that those that are thriving (whether in professional or general life) have often been blessed with having had one or more mentors. I know I would not be where I am now if it were not for several folk who have actively invested in me over the years.”

Rewards for mentors
Mentors often express satisfaction in helping others to achieve their goals as well as enjoying the opportunity to give back to the profession. As a mentor, the satisfaction of seeing your mentee overcome difficulties and create the future they aspire to is extremely rewarding.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to be mentored, both formally and informally, by people who inspired me to achieve my potential and who supported me through the various challenges along the way. I am pleased to be able to mentor others in the hope that they will gain from it as much as I did.
In developing others, mentors also grow their own skills and may gain a different perspective on work. They also find that their confidence around addressing issues and in dealing with people from different backgrounds increases. Mentors do not necessarily need specific knowledge in the mentee’s area of practice (they might simply be required to ask questions to aid reflection and help the individual to self-solve problems) but some skills, such as the ability to question, listen and provide constructive feedback, are essential.

For both mentors and mentees, mentoring presents many opportunities for continuing professional development. The relationship promotes learning, commitment and motivation, all of which support completion of revalidation entries. Entries may include learning that results from meetings and discussions, providing and receiving support or feedback, and evaluating progress either as a mentor or mentee. Mentoring experiences can be used to identify or refine learning focus.

Support
Many professional organisations recognise the benefit of mentoring services and provide this service for their members. Most health-related royal colleges, such as nursing, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynaecology, offer mentorship to their respective students and trainees.
RPS has a mentoring platform which facilitates easy and appropriate matching of mentor to mentee. You need to decide what you would like a mentor to support you with. You can then select and approach a mentor based on their profile of skills and experience. Join the RPS platform today and find your perfect match.

Sign up www.rpharms.com/mentoring

Get your flu vaccination!

by Paul Bennett, RPS Chief Executive

I’ve had my seasonal flu vaccination – have you had yours?

It’s become part of my routine, and I make sure I get a flu jab every year. I get it to make sure I stay well, along with the people I come into contact with who may be vulnerable, my family and colleagues.

It’s a very sensible precaution because influenza is easy to pass on, even if you don’t show symptoms. It can have a devastating impact if it takes hold.  Every healthcare professional working with patients should get vaccinated – it’s not too late.

We often think of flu as something little more than a bad cold.  It’s so much worse than that, In 2018/19, there were an estimated 1,692 deaths associated with flu.

Flu has a legacy of tragedy behind it.  The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than both WW1 and WW2 combined.

We experienced something, thankfully on a less devastating scale, in more recent times. Back in the last decade, the UK suffered as part of the outbreak of Pandemic H1N1/09 (or Swine flu as it became known).

At its peak there were estimated to be 110,000 active cases in a single week in the UK. This caused much disruption to the lives of many of us. I remember spending days planning for massive workforce disruption as part of the leadership team of my organisation at the time. Our challenge was to support ill colleagues while continuing to serve the patients who depended upon us. Maybe that’s why I take these things seriously.

The RPS supports the call for all healthcare professionals to be vaccinated. It’s just common sense and yet not enough do. And every year, the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Pharmaceutical Officers call on healthcare workers to be vaccinated. As the professional membership body for pharmacists, we must lead by example, and that’s why I encourage all our employees and members to do the same thing. Protect yourselves, your family and the rest of the population.

Working for you on workforce wellbeing

by Sandra Gidley, RPS President

The extent of workforce pressures on the mental health and wellbeing of pharmacists, pre-regs and students is shocking. 

When we asked you to tell us about your experiences in our workplace wellbeing survey in September, over a 1300 of you responded in a fortnight.  Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us and our survey partner, the charity Pharmacist Support.

Pharmacists all over the country told us they are suffering from severe stress and burnout because of the pressures they are facing at work.

This is totally unacceptable.

The data you have provided us with is powerful. Our next step is to lobby governments, NHS and employers across Great Britain to make sure all pharmacists get equal access to wellbeing support.  At present, only those pharmacists employed directly by the NHS get access to help, alongside doctors and dentists, who get it regardless of where they work.  We are fighting for all of you to get the same support.

Key themes

Workplace pressure contributes significantly to poor mental health and wellbeing.  Some of the themes we’ve picked up include how poor mental health is not specific to one sector of practice, it can affect all pharmacists wherever they work.  A large proportion of respondents told us they are at a high risk of burnout.  Many of you have also said that you’re very concerned about the effects your stress has on patient safety. In addition, survey respondents feel that workplace pressures can cause people to disengage from their role, creating personal unhappiness and a less productive workforce.

Campaigning for you

Our lobbying work around this is now focusing on getting preventative measures in place and structured mental health and wellbeing services for all pharmacists. I’d go as far as saying that the NHS is at risk of creating workforce inequalities by providing support services for some staff and not others. We need to learn the lessons from the workforce pressures our GP and nurse colleagues have experienced, rather than make the same mistakes.

Next steps

In December we’ll be publishing a summary of the topline survey results and will provide a more detailed report in Spring 2020.  We’ll then hold a roundtable with key stakeholders to identify solutions to the problems raised in the survey.  We’ll continue to engage with you, the NHS and government to get equal access to the right support for the profession.

Confidential help

Remember, if you’re struggling to manage your wellbeing, you’re not alone.  Pharmacist Support – the profession’s charity – has free and confidential services that may help.  For information, a stress helpline, specialist advice, wellbeing workshops and online resources visit Pharmacist Support info@pharmacistsupport.org  or call 0808 168 2233.