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Mental health of 1 in 3 pharmacists significantly affected by COVID-19 pandemic

One third of pharmacists have experienced a significant negative impact on their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey has found.

The findings come from the 2020 edition of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's (RPS) Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey which aims to highlight areas of unmet need among pharmacists.

Of all respondents, over half (54%) experienced a partial negative affect on their mental health with 31% significantly affected.

Increased demand for medicines, under-staffing, long shifts, and a lack of breaks or time off were reported as drivers of poor mental health in 72% of those surveyed – a figure similar to last year's 74%.

A massive 89% of pharmacists were deemed to be at high risk of burn out which was closely linked with a lack of work enjoyment, frequency of sick leave, concerns around service quality and making mistakes at work, as well as workforce retention.

Regarding general mental health, 40% of pharmacists felt theirs was 'okay', but 43% of respondents said it was either 'not good' or 'poor'.

Read more: Oxford NHS absences increased by 20% during first pandemic wave

Despite such a large proportion of pharmacists experiencing poor mental health, only 14% of respondents chose to access available support, while only 32% of pharmacists were aware of the support available to them.

A perceived lack of confidentiality and stigmas were common reasons behind the poor uptake percentage.

“We’ve all felt the consequences of extra pressures brought by the pandemic," said RPS President, Sandra Gidley. "It’s been incredibly tough and caused enormous stress and increased workloads for pharmacy teams. We need to ensure support is available for those who need it, whilst preventing problems from happening by tackling some of the root causes of poor mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

“Flexible opening hours have been enormously helpful in managing workloads and should become a permanent adaptation, rather than a short-term measure. Having the right staffing levels and skill mix in the pharmacy to support safe and effective patient care should be a given. And being able to take breaks, to relieve the pressure or for CPD to learn something new, is essential."

Outside of pharmacists, similar findings have been reported for other healthcare workers. Recent data from NHS Digital showed a 20% increase in staff absences at the Oxford University Hospitals Trust due to mental health concerns during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

To read the full Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey 2020, click here.

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