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.

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.

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.

Inclusion and diversity update

by Paul Bennett, RPS Chief Executive

As your professional body, we are now working towards an inclusion and diversity strategy for pharmacy that values difference. We want to recognise, celebrate and encourage all voices and experiences across pharmacy so we can better represent you and our patients.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending three recent events hosted by the RPS to engage with members on this really important issue. The first was a celebration during Black History Month of the BAME community’s contribution to pharmacy and we had fantastic contributions and insights shared on the day.

The second was an Inclusion & Diversity workshop which was a key milestone on the programme of work we’ve embarked on. Being authentic at work, and in turn being able to feel a sense of true belonging, is something that means so much to each of us individually and I’m keen to champion this here at the RPS. I’m a strong believer that you can only be your best self if you are allowed to be the person you truly are in your workplace, so this programme, under the guidance of our excellent Chair, Asif Sadiq MBE, will produce a strategy that we hope will resonate across the profession as well as within the RPS itself.

The third event I attended was the Retired Pharmacist Group of the RPS. It’s clear to me that older age does not mean a decline in drive, energy and enthusiasm for the profession (or for life!) and I came away feeling both inspired and thankful to have among our membership such passionate and professional people who we can all learn so much from. I do hope RPG members take up my invitation to become RPS Mentors!

Our recent I&D survey of members has highlighted that they wish us to do more in the areas of disability, race and age, and we’ll be looking at how we can do this most effectively. We’ve also got a timeline of our activity so you can track our progress.

My view is that we can only be effective at tackling I&D issues if we’re not afraid to hear about the problems and challenges faced and address them. This requires each of us to have the courage to speak up and commit to not walking past inappropriate activity where we see it. Those of us in a position to create the environment for concerns to be raised without fear should do everything we can to enable that to happen.

I said at our I&D workshop that at times I had been self-conscious as a white, middle aged, heterosexual male trying to engage in conversation about BAME and LGBT+ issues as it might be perceived that I had no credibility to do so. Having talked about this with many people, I now realise that I’m not alone in having that concern BUT that it’s better to share my perspective, understand it for what it is, listen to all the other perspectives and actively contribute to this vital agenda. No one individual can profess to speak on behalf of groups of others, as we each have a unique perspective – we are all individuals after all, even though we will identify with certain groups.

RPS can only have credibility in this space if we ‘walk the talk’. Part of our commitment is therefore to do what is right by publishing data that shows our performance as an employer striving to create equal opportunity. We already publish data on our gender pay gap here at RPS and in future I am committing that we will also publish data on ethnicity and pay. We are not required by law to do either but it’s simply the right thing to do, as we believe we should lead by example.

I encourage you to engage with this discussion about inclusion and diversity whenever and wherever you can and to champion everyone’s right to be their authentic self in the workplace. Being authentic, feeling comfortable with who we are and bringing a diversity of perspectives and views to work will enrich the RPS and help us deliver the best possible support for our members, whatever their age, race, gender or sexuality.

Uncovering hidden histories at the RPS Museum

by Matthew Johnston, RPS Museum

Part of our work here at the RPS Museum includes researching various aspects of pharmacy history so we can enrich our displays, tours and articles, especially those areas that are currently under-represented in the museum.

A recent focus of this research has been to uncover more stories relating to BAME communities. This isn’t an easy task as historical registers of pharmacists did not record information relating to ethnicity. In addition to this lack of documentary evidence, there is little visual material available, particularly in the early years of the Society before the widespread introduction of photography.

But we didn’t let that stop us. When we look through the records, we can see tantalising glimpses of stories that we can use as a starting point for our research. The earliest specific reference we have found in the Society’s archive is the arrival of the first black African student at the School of Pharmacy in 1847, as noted in the report of the Annual General Meeting of May 1848, which reflects the attitudes of the time:

It is also gratifying to find that some have come from distant countries, and one of these, an intelligent African, is probably the first native of that soil who will apply a knowledge of Chemistry acquired in an English School, with the view of promoting the arts of civilization among his colored brethren.”

But who was this student? Frustratingly he isn’t named, but he may have been Joseph Mailloux. The Society published its first list of ‘Foreign Life Members’ in the Pharmaceutical Journal in 1856 and Joseph is listed as having been admitted to membership in 1847. He was based in Mauritius, which at that time was a British colony. His certificate number of 28 shows that he took and passed one of the Society’s exams, so would have been studying at the School around the time referred to in the above report.

Despite poring over the various resources available to us, we couldn’t find out much more about Joseph Mailloux. He remains on the Society’s register until 1877, so seems to have had a 30-year career. An annotation in the Registrar’s copy of the register confirms that his removal was because he had died, but no obituary was published in either the Pharmaceutical Journal or the Chemist and Druggist, a familiar story with international members of the Society at this time.

There is still a lot of work to do in terms of including more marginalised voices in the museum. Hopefully this blog has shown that there are stories to be told and histories to be revealed – we just need to keep on digging to find them and highlight diversity in the profession.

Our mentoring relationship

Being a mentee: Aamir Shaikh

I met my mentor Aamer Safdar whilst working at Kings College London. I was the 3rd year Professional Lead, and was introduced to him and he told me about his background, both personal and professional.  Just by listening to him, I knew that his values were similar to my own. 

Challenge

I now work at BUPA as the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer’s Clinical Fellow, but before that I worked within the Education Directorate at RPS.  It was there I worked alongside Aamer in projects involving undergraduates.  You will hear that pharmacy is a small world and this is one such example!  My manager explained how it is important to work alongside colleagues who will challenge your thinking and I found this in Aamer.  Our mentor/mentee relationship first established when we went out for dinner as a post-work group; it was here when I decided to formalise my mentor/mentee relationship with him. 

Benefits

I’ve benefited greatly from the mentor/mentee relationship. It’s given me thinking space but its been advantageous to both my personal and professional life to have someone to challenge my own thinking in whatever situation or scenario I am experiencing.  In our last meeting Aamer and I spoke about authenticity, congruence and integrity.  I found it particularly useful hearing from someone in Aamer’s position, a current GPhC Council member and previous RPS English Pharmacy Board member, about how important it is to stay true to your own values and what these values really mean.

We use the RPS mentor platform to record our meetings and have found that, as well as the normal methods of keeping in touch, the platform has been beneficial in keeping us focused. I couldn’t stress the importance of having a mentor enough.  It has really helped me focus whenever I have found myself in a sticky situation and I’m grateful for the time Aamer has shared with me.

Being a Mentor: Aamer Safdar

I have been a mentor to many people inside and outside of pharmacy and have used a variety of methods with my mentees which have included traditional face to face sessions as well as mentoring exclusively by email and by phone; in the latter two cases, I never met my mentees in real life until much later in our relationships! 

I currently mentor two pharmacists, at different stages in their careers, using the RPS mentoring platform.  The platform is useful because I have outlined the areas in which I would like to mentor in to manage my mentees’ expectations. 

Sharing experiences

In both of my meetings, we spoke about our careers and challenges at different levels and I was able to share my experiences and wisdom from both my day job and from being in national boards.  Much of my wisdom has come from my own mentors, who have been different people at different stages of my career,and with different perspectives and advice.  Without a mentor to bounce things off, I doubt I would have done many of the things I have done in my career.

Find out more about our mentoring scheme exclusively for members

Strengthening Antimicrobial Stewardship through training

by Vincent Ng, Professional Development Pharmacist

The challenge   

This year the UK Government updated its 5 year action plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), which details ambitious goals such as reducing antimicrobial usage in humans by 15% and halving gram negative blood stream infections by 2024.

A major part of this plan involves improving how antimicrobials are used through Antimicrobial Stewardship, for example by reducing inappropriate prescribing. As experts in medicines and advocates for medicines optimisation, all pharmacists have a role to play.

Supporting pharmacists through training

Earlier this year, we delivered a 3-month training programme to pharmacists from primary and secondary care in London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, funded by the Health Education England AMR Innovation Fund. This was an exciting opportunity for us to support pharmacists from a range of settings and scopes of practice to learn about Antimicrobial Stewardship and get involved in their workplace.

What did the training involve?

  • Face-to-Face training day delivered by national experts
  • Quality improvement project in the workplace, supported by online group feedback sessions facilitated by UKCPA Pharmacy Infection Network tutors
  • Structured self-assessment and self-directed learning
  • GPhC revalidation entries
  • End of training assessment with experts from our Antimicrobial Expert Advisory Group

What our learners are saying

“I was given the opportunity to be part of the AMR programme this year and found the programme very useful. It has propelled me in the right direction with regards to leading on AMR within my organisation.  The key resources provided during the programme and the link to a tutor gave the confidence I needed to complete my project. My quality improvement project involved the review of patients with UTI to ensure appropriate prescribing and accurate documentation process.  Although the project was only focused on a small cohort it was very useful to see the changes and improvement that was made. I have not just stopped with the project but have also made myself an AMR champion with AMR now formally included in my work plan. I am now creating a training matrix to increase awareness within my organisation.”

Jenkeo Olowoloba, Community Health Specialist Pharmacist, Medway Community Healthcare

“The training helped me develop my skills as a competent and confident AMS practitioner. Participating in this training programme enabled me to significantly improve my quality improvement skills, extending my skills beyond audits and re audits. I demonstrated QI methodology and embedded behavioural interventions to improve the quality of the 72-hour antibiotic review carried out by clinicians.  I also designed a scoring tool on the Perfect Ward App to measure the quality of an antibiotic review which led to reducing data collection time from 15 minutes to 5 minutes. I enjoyed the entire experience and valued the constant support provided by our tutors, RPS team and colleagues. The practice-based discussions benefitted my practice significantly, being able to share ideas and learn from experts as well as each other. Thank you RPS for an amazing opportunity!

Bairavi Indrakumar, Senior Clinical Pharmacist, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Getting started

Take the first step by finding out more about how your organisation is doing against key AMS indicators. Work with your peers and colleagues to better understand how things are working. PHE Fingertips and OpenPrescribing.net are examples of useful open-access sources of data that you can explore.

Talk to your key stakeholders to come up with shared objectives and work together on a plan to make improvements.

Inspire and get inspiration

Why not link up with others who are also working on AMS and AMR?

Update! We’ve been commissioned to provide AMS training in England in 2020. Find out more and book your place.

Asking patients using pharmacy services what they need

by Stephanie West, RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacist

In our previous blog, Nicky Gray spoke about the ‘strength and authenticity’ of relationships between stakeholders as central to successful integrated working. The same holds true when engaging the populations we serve. Promoting a positive patient experience of health and social care services, through providing integrated out-of-hospital care for patients, is a central aim for PCNs.

Community pharmacy has firm foundations to build upon. The National Healthwatch Report 2016 found that:

  • Three quarters of people say they would go to a pharmacist, rather than a GP, to get medication for a minor illness.
  • Over half would go to a pharmacist to seek advice for a specific minor illness or injury.
  • A third of people would consider using a pharmacy instead of visiting a GP for general medical advice.’

Community pharmacy was also the healthcare service of choice for ‘traditionally harder to engage groups.’ Significantly, the report found that participants ‘trusted the pharmacist’.

Asking patients

One thing that strikes me is – how are patients being consulted and educated about the increasing clinical services delivered by pharmacists? How is the patient voice being captured?

GP Practices have engaged with patients through Patient Participation Groups for many years, to make sure ‘that their practice puts the patient, and improving health, at the heart of everything it does’ These could be a useful forum to capture patient views on new ways of accessing care from the wider PCN team. If you are part of a group focussing on the role of pharmacists in the practice, please get in touch.

Community pharmacists have to conduct an annual patient survey. This focuses on traditional services and advice-giving and could be developed to raise awareness of different clinical services. 

The Berwick Review called for the NHS to ‘Engage, empower, and hear patients and carers at all times’. NHS Trusts have patient and public engagement strategies, recognising the importance of capturing patient views. There are opportunities to do this, many trusts will have patient representation on their Medicines Safety Committee, but can we engage them more widely as strategies for pharmacy and medicines optimisation are developed across Integrated Care Systems?

Shared decision-making

Liberating the NHS: No decision about me without me  focussed on shared-decision making. How are pharmacists ensuring that patients are fully involved in decisions about their own care and treatment? How is pharmacy linked with local communities, groups and networks? NICE Guidance identifies Shared decision-making as ‘an essential part of evidence-based medicine’ and the NHS Patient Safety Strategy 2019 commits to: ‘Commission shared decision-making (SDM) training for clinical pharmacists moving into PCNs, to work with patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) on anticoagulants’.

Get in touch

Our new System Leadership Resource section on ‘Culture Change’ includes a focus on meaningful engagement with local people. If you have a case study showing how you have improved health outcomes or developed a service through patient engagement, shared-decision making and/or co-production we would like to share your insights so please do contact us.


 


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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.