Associate Feature: Pharmacists are under pressure. How can we develop long-lasting solutions?
All health professions are under pressure. Pharmacists in community, hospital and primary care are all affected. The causes of these pressures are multifactorial including workforce, workplace, contractual and financial issues. Consequently, there is no simple solution.
Pharmacists remained accessible to the public and provided essential services throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We are now extremely concerned that the public debate on pharmacy closures is undermining public confidence in pharmacy, and this may result in a negative impact on patient care. Furthermore, it could damage the NHS Scotland messaging on using pharmacy services first for self-care, which is unhelpful given the looming winter pressures facing the NHS.
Therefore, it is essential that a way forward is agreed that ensures patients benefit consistently from high quality, person-centred, adequately staffed, safe pharmacy services.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is pharmacists’ professional leadership body – we are neither a trade union nor an employer/contractor representative organisation – so we aim to provide a balanced viewpoint on this complex issue.
Our members are reporting unprecedented levels of burnout, adding pressure to a workforce already stretched by workload and Covid-19 absences. Workforce data show shortages of pharmacists, but to attribute the problem to workforce shortages alone would be an oversimplification. Our workforce wellbeing survey identified issues including pharmacists’ inability to take rest breaks which are essential for both patient safety and staff welfare; unsafe staffing levels; a lack of access to training and development; inflexible working arrangements due to fixed pharmacy opening hours; and an unsupportive culture. These issues must be addressed.
We encourage everyone engaged in the debate on pharmacy closures to consider the complexity of these challenges, so that solutions developed are well-considered, comprehensive, and ultimately lead to sustainable delivery of pharmacy services and improve patient care. Fair remuneration and clear winter plans to temporarily prioritise core pharmacy activities to maintain the prescribing and supply of medicines for patients would be a great start.
Clare Morrison is Director for Scotland at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society
This article is sponsored by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland