Care-funded Newcastle University research aims to help highlight worrying pressures faced by UK pharmacy teams
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Care reveals results of Newcastle University research into pressures faced by community pharmacists
Care-backed university research into the day-to-day pressures faced by pharmacists before and during the first wave of the pandemic continues to reveal a worrying picture of the mounting stresses and strains within the sector.
And with a second wave already underway, the results present real concern over how UK pharmacists and their teams will cope over the winter period.
The research1 was conducted in August by fourth year Newcastle School of Pharmacy student Maisie Baker who was the recipient of The Newcastle School of Pharmacy Care Award 2020.
Alongside capturing evidence of workplace pressures, it also focussed on what brands like Care can do to help to make life easier for pharmacists and their staff and how they can support pharmacy further.
The study used a quantitative approach to capture the experiences of 48 pharmacists from community pharmacies across the country who kindly agreed to take part in the study, which was overseen by Dr Adam Pattison Rathbone, Lecturer in Social and Clinical Pharmacy at Newcastle University School of Pharmacy.
The research showed the number of pharmacists working more than 45 hours per week doubled to 40% during the pandemic (19% before the first wave) and 36% worked between 35-44 hours a week.
Before Covid-19 hit, 48% of respondents reported feeling workplace pressure, stress or burnout sometimes, most of the time or always, whereas during the pandemic this figure rose to 76%.
The results showed the headline contributing factors to an increase in stress and workplace pressure during the crisis were inadequate staffing (16.7%), demanding, impatient or aggressive patients (16.7%) and pressure from company management or feeling unsupported by management (14.6%).
Other responses included higher dispensing volumes and increased workloads (10.4%), costs or funding worries (4.2%), and personal worries (8.3%).
Among the coping strategies adopted by pharmacists during the pandemic, 6.25% reported taking antidepressant or antianxiety medication.
Over a quarter (29.2%) utilised support networks of pharmacy staff, 16.7% stated taking time off work, 12.5% said taking regular breaks at work and 10.4% relied on hobbies, yoga, exercise, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
Research analysis concluded that as some of these mindful strategies may not have been available to pharmacists during the pandemic, a double-burden effect may have substantially increased workplace pressure, stress and burnout.
Respondents did however report some positive changes during the pandemic including the allowance of a two-hour closure which allowed them protected breaks and time to deep clean and catch up on work in the absence of patients – a measure some would like to see retained beyond Covid-19.
Participants also said they’d like to see a better representation of the role of pharmacists in the media to counter patient misconceptions of what they can and can’t provide – a suggestion aimed at preventing ‘demanding, impatient or aggressive’ reactions from some patients.
There were also calls to increase support and training resources for dispensary staff to enable them to take on more pharmacist duties to reduce their workload.
Responses to how pharmaceutical brands can better support community pharmacy focussed on the provision of training, including for pre-reg pharmacists, good accessibility to products and reliable supply and providing products which offered patients quality and value.
Emma Boyle, Care Brand Manager, said: “Firstly on behalf of everyone at Care we’d like to say a big thank you to all the pharmacists who took the time to take part in this research and to Maisie and Dr Rathbone for conducting the study and analysing the results.
“It’s always disheartening to hear of the intense stresses and strains felt by so many pharmacists.
“We hope this study will continue to help shine a spotlight on the plight facing pharmacy teams and play a part in bringing about the necessary changes.
“Pharmacies are important frontline healthcare hubs within their communities and should be recognised for the incredible work they do, including supporting people to self-care, which they frequently do free of charge.
“As the No1 brand sold through UK pharmacy* we believe we have a responsibility to do all we can to continue to support pharmacists and their teams. This research has given us real insight into how we can do more to help ease some of the pressures which are increasingly burdening the sector, particularly through the next few months.”
Commenting on the research results Dr Rathbone said: “Although this was a relatively small piece of research it does indicate that community pharmacists are vulnerable to a double whammy effect relating to workplace pressure.
On one-side increased workload increases stress but also they have had limited access to strategies that would reduce workload pressure, such as recreational spaces, so the experience of workplace pressure, stress and burnout may be more significant.”
Maisie added: ‘’This has been fantastic opportunity to carry out my own research as a student in a field I will soon be working in. The project has been a fantastic insight into what goes into designing and carrying out a research project and I am excited to use these skills I have gained in future projects.
“I’d like to thank all of the pharmacists who took the time to complete the survey. I’d also like to thank Dr Rathbone and Care for allowing me to put my own spin on the project. It made it interesting to be able to choose what I wanted to research. Although, it was saddening to find that so many pharmacists are working under such immense pressure, I really hope there is a solution to this in the very near future.’’
In recognition of the mounting pressures on UK pharmacy teams we recently launched our ‘Wellbeing at Work’ training module to help manage workplace challenges and improve work-life balance.