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.

We are undefeatable: join the campaign to get active!

by Suzanne Gardner, Sport England

You may have seen the “We Are Undefeatable” campaign from 15 leading health and social care charities and Sport England.

It aims to support people living with health conditions to build physical activity into their lives, in a way that their condition allows, and to celebrate every victory big or small.

The TV adverts you’ll have seen are inspired by, and feature, the real-life experiences of people with long-term health conditions getting active despite the ups, downs and unpredictability of their condition.

Pharmacists already play a key support role for the 1 in 4 people now living with at least one long-term health condition. People with health conditions are twice as likely to be inactive[i] despite the compelling evidence for the role of physical activity in the prevention and management of long-term conditions.

Want to get involved? Check your activation pack!

Many pharmacists are already supporting people to get active through the Healthy Living Pharmacy scheme. To help you make the most of the national campaign 12,000 Community Pharmacies in England have been sent activation packs, which include:

  • An activation brief providing details about the campaign and links to resources to support you to have physical activity conversations with customers. These include the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine’s Moving Medicine resource (developed in partnership with PHE and Sport England), the Royal College of GPs Physical Activity and Lifestyle Toolkit and the PHE E learning for health physical activity modules.
  • 2 A4 posters featuring Jo and Heraldo (Two of the Undefeatables).
  • 100 conversation starters and a dispenser for these for use in the pharmacy.
  • Access to a campaign film for use on screens
  • Social media content.

Healthy Living Bonus

The great news is that these resources can also be used to help meet the Healthy Living Pharmacy requirements linked to lifestyle advice and physical activity.

And if the campaign inspires you to get active yourself it’s a bonus!

Further copies of these resources can be accessed through the Public Health England Resource Centre  https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources


[i] (Sport England (2019) Active Lives Survey 2017/2018). 

Bring your whole self to work

By Robbie Turner, RPS Director for Pharmacy and Member Experience

Pharmacy is a very diverse profession, especially in terms of gender and ethnicity.  As your professional body, we want to recognise, celebrate and encourage a variety of voices and experiences across pharmacy to better represent you.

The diversity we see is not necessarily represented at senior and leadership level though. Things could be better, and as an organisation we recognise we could also do more in this space.

That’s why I’m so excited we have launched a new programme of work on inclusion and diversity. 

Pharmacists often work in isolation, and especially in the case of community pharmacy, may often be the only healthcare professional on the premises. It can be hard to bring your authentic self to work when your environment means you don’t feel comfortable expressing who you are.  When we don’t bring our whole selves to work we can suffer – in terms of our wellbeing and our work.

We are about to go out to the profession as a whole to get your views on how inclusion and diversity can be improved and celebrated. There will be opportunities to engage with us on this to make sure that our strategy is truly created hand in hand with you.

We’ll be launching a survey at the end of the month as a starter. It’s incredibly important that as many of you as possible complete it – it’s your chance to be in at the start and ensure you inform what we do, both in the short and longer term.

After that we’ll be creating and celebrating some key events such as Women in Leadership and Black History Month in October.

We’ll be sharing our initial thinking at our annual conference on 17th November. 

I’m convinced this programme is the right way forward for the profession, as is everyone at the RPS. Who you truly are matters. We want you to feel able to bring your whole self to work and experience a sense of belonging. I hope you join us on this journey. 

It’s not business, it’s personal!

by Nicola Gray, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

I have no doubt that the success of forthcoming integration across systems and sectors is going to be determined by the strength of personal relationships between stakeholders. Human beings crave connection with others above all else and the strength and authenticity of these connections will influence partnership working.

Making connections

These connections cannot be formed ‘on demand’. Sometimes people meet and immediately recognise a ‘soul mate’, personal or professional, but this is rare. And even then, we have to hope that the first flush of exhilaration for a strong new connection settles into something enduring and mutually enriching.

Developing relationships

I was recently a guest of Greater Manchester LPC at the NPA Conference in Manchester, and a thread about relationships became apparent across a number of presentations. Ed Waller from NHSE highlighted the importance of developing relationships and collaborative networks to enable community pharmacy to play its optimum role in PCNs. Simon Dukes from PSNC reflected on why partnerships fail, including lack of trust, stalemate, and the perceived power of one party over the other.

Later, Rose Marie Parr, Chief Pharmacist in the Scottish Government, countered that good relationships are built upon a shared vision, effective leadership and trust. Russell Goodway from Community Pharmacy Wales spoke of delivering a shared ambition through a willing partnership, and our own Paul Bennett spoke of unprecedented co-operation among representative bodies through aligning on the major issues facing pharmacists

Focus on what’s real

I think it is time to reflect on the strongest connections and most enduring, authentic relationships that each pharmacist has made – without exploiting them but focusing on mutual benefit. An obvious source of many enduring connections for pharmacy is with patients. How can pharmacists really tune into those connections to find out what is most relevant and valuable to their local population? Is that not the foundation on which our ‘offer’ to the local health system must be based? How, can we then share this common vision and facilitate strategic change at local level?   NHSE is sending a strong message through PSNC that a ‘tsunami’ of separate pharmacy approaches to PCNs will not be welcomed. What is needed is a coordinated effort from contractors within each locality.

Make use of support

We should also reflect on wider support from the pharmacy system that we can draw upon. From connections with colleagues in local hospitals, and our ‘academic hubs’ in our Schools of Pharmacy. Reminding us who we are, where we have been, and where we are going – not least with what we have to offer to the health system of our understanding of new medicines and new science. For those who already have strong and enduring relationships with multidisciplinary partners in primary care and beyond, try to anticipate the turbulence that they must also be experiencing and consider how you can help them to achieve shared objectives for your community.

So let’s take stock now of our best and most enduring connections, and pool our knowledge to make maximum impact when the time is right.

Our new resource on system leadership helps point the way. It includes case studies from pharmacists working in different levels of the system and links to tools, standards and guides to develop the leadership qualities required to work collaboratively across boundaries within your local health and care systems.

Diabetes care – get involved!

by Professor Mahendra G. Patel, Diabetes Lead, English Pharmacy Board

Today we’ve published our new policy ‘Using pharmacists to help improve care for people with Type 2 Diabetes’. Aimed at policy makers and service commissioners within the NHS in England, it calls for pharmacists in various care settings to be fully integrated into services for those with Type 2 diabetes. This makes way for increased prevention, earlier detection, and better access to diabetes care tailored to individual needs.  

More than five million people in the UK are expected to have Type 2 diabetes by 2025. This is a national challenge in terms of poor health outcomes, economic burden to the NHS, and ever-widening health inequalities largely driven by factors such as ethnicity and deprivation. Each year within hospitals, there are thousands of patients with diabetes experiencing medication errors that could be avoided.

Significant numbers of people are failing to meet the nationally recommended treatment targets in reducing risk of complications associated with type 2 diabetes. Many are not understanding their condition nor adhering to prescribed treatment. In my opinion, this is a critical time to make more effective use of the extensive clinical skills of the pharmacist.

The NHS Long Term Plan recognises the vital role of pharmacists and their clinical skills in supporting patients to achieve better health outcomes, improving patient safety and reducing medication errors. The recent establishment of new Primary Care Networks and the growing maturity of local Integrated Care Systems, together provide unparalleled opportunities for people to receive better access to their pharmacists, more personalised support, and joined-up care at the right time in the optimal care setting.

In line with new and emerging roles for pharmacists and advancing practice, and at a time when technology is set to command a pivotal role in healthcare, our new policy on diabetes builds on our previous national campaigns.

It translates the latest evidence into practice, focusing on helping people to live longer and lead healthier lives whilst ensuring effective and safe use of medicines. It further highlights the need to support services within and across different care settings, where pharmacists can make significant and meaningful differences in improving health outcomes.

It also shows how pharmacists, who are integrated within a specialist diabetes multidisciplinary team, can provide added value and synergy across care pathways as routine daily practice.

Professor Sir David Haslam, Chair of NICE, one of the many organisations supporting our policy states, ‘Diabetes is a public health emergency’. We will continue to press these recommendations to progress this crucial national work.

Improving antibiotic resistance in Ghana

Contributors from Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana: Dr Daniel Ankrah, Mark Harrison, Tony Osei, Priscilla Ekpale, Julia Selby, Jennifer Laryea, Asiwome Aggor, Frempomaa Nelson, Helena Owusu, Grace Aboagye and Agnetta Ampomah

The Commonwealth Partnerships for Antimicrobial Stewardship (CwPAMS) educates, trains and supports overseas health workers to tackle the growing challenge of antimicrobial resistance. Partnerships are running in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, with the support of UK health workers including pharmacists.

Here, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana – North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust (NMUH) partnership to explore their motivations and hopes for their project.

Read more Improving antibiotic resistance in Ghana

From community pharmacist to Medical Science Liaison

Sinead Monaghan, Medical Science Liaison, Sanofi

I graduated with a master’s degree in pharmacy from Queen’s University Belfast.I undertook my pre-registration year in a community pharmacy chain in Northern Ireland. I was employed as a pharmacist manager with the same company post pre-registration year. I spent a further four years as a community pharmacist.

I thoroughly enjoyed this role, especially being a pharmacist tutor. This very much sparked my interest in training others. I had always been curious about alternative pharmacist roles, but felt my knowledge of career paths was limited.

Read more From community pharmacist to Medical Science Liaison

Professional Standards – committing to change and improvement

By Suzanne Scott-Thomas, Chair of RPS in Wales

Professional standards are central to improving practice, creating a more responsive service for our patients and increasing efficiencies.

Part two of this blog on the value of professional standards highlights another example of how using the RPS Hospital Pharmacy Standards has helped reshape a service, along with tips on creating change and improvement.

Read more Professional Standards – committing to change and improvement

Improving care with professional standards

by Suzanne Scott-Thomas, Chair of RPS in Wales

As pharmacists, we need to know that the services we provide are effective, safe, and efficient. This way we can make sure patients are getting the care they need and deserve. We also need to know that the services are continuing to meet the requirements of an ever-changing healthcare environment.

Read more Improving care with professional standards

Social prescribing – linking patients with support

by Hemant Patel FRPharms, English Pharmacy Board member

Today is Social Prescribing Day. So, what is social prescribing?

Social prescribing enables GPs, pharmacists, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services via a link worker.

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

Link workers give people time and focus on what matters to the person, and as part of their care, connect people to community groups and agencies for practical and emotional support.  With the recent publication of the NHS Long Term Plan and personalised care being marked as a priority, the NHS has promised to support at least 900,000 people to benefit from social prescribing by 2023. Pharmacists have a role to play here. Read more Social prescribing – linking patients with support