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HSE Stress and Wellbeing Survey results

The PDA has analysed the results of an industry-standard safety survey completed by pharmacists employed at Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Well. The key findings will be published over the coming weeks.

Thu 3rd February 2022 The PDA

Employers have a duty of care regarding the health and safety of employees and others who might be affected by their business, which includes mental health and physical health. This also involves a legal duty to assess the risks to its employees including workplace stress and the management of work-related stress.

Increasing numbers of members request support from the PDA relating to their stress and wellbeing in the workplace. In Autumn 2021, the union invited pharmacists employed by Lloyds, Boots, and Well to undertake a stress and wellbeing survey. This survey utilised questions developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and allowed the union to understand more about stress and wellbeing in three of the largest community pharmacy multiples.

This survey generated the largest response to any recent survey undertaken by the PDA, with over 2,000 pharmacists taking part. The PDA thanks workplace representatives for supporting and distributing the survey and pharmacists for sharing their experiences.

Major concerns were highlighted and some respondents made it clear that they feel there are too many unreasonable demands being placed on them by employers which, impact their health and wellbeing at work. Some pharmacists working for each of the three employers told the PDA of unachievable targets, unrealistic time pressures, and most worrying of all reported numerous instances of bullying and harassment.

Patient care is an absolute priority for PDA members, and the overwhelming majority reflect on the personal sacrifices that pharmacists make to ensure patient services are not impacted by the poor conditions and environments in some pharmacies. It is clear that the pharmacist workforce is feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and concerned about the safety of their patients, as well as their own health and wellbeing. They are sending a clear message that this situation cannot be allowed to continue.

Member comments included:

“The stress levels are immense. Staff levels are ridiculous and I often have to work parts of the shifts or even the whole shift alone as there are no dispensers available. The introduction of the new computer system made it worse, as it is not fit for purpose. We are being shouted at by customers several times a day, getting insulted for not being able to get prescriptions done faster. There’s no support from the regional manager or head office. Both myself and colleagues are often in tears at work and my mental and physical well-being is badly affected.”

“The stress levels are immense to the point that they affect my time off, my home life, and my sleep pattern. There is very little support or care shown, and when you mention the stress levels it’s shrugged off (by management) with ‘everybody’s in the same boat.”

“Work is almost intolerable due to dispenser vacancies, increased workloads, and virtually no communication from our regional manager. We are essentially left to fend for ourselves with no support or encouragement. I am considering leaving the employer after 32 years of working for them as the working conditions are so bad. There is no time to eat lunch without being constantly interrupted, and most certainly there’s no chance of another break in a 10-hour day.”

Joining the PDA Union, and getting involved is the best way to deliver change at work

Collette Bradford, PDA Director of Organising and Engagement said, “The results of this independent health and safety survey have demonstrated the extent of work placed pressure of those on the frontline in the UK’s largest employers of pharmacists. The PDA appreciates the clear comments and quantitative data that survey respondents have taken the time to share with us. While some employers peddle the myth of an overall pharmacist shortage, the facts have shown that there are in fact more registered pharmacists than ever before and the PDA has long concluded from listening to our members that the real issue preventing some employers from filling all their shifts is unacceptable working conditions.”

Collette Bradford continued, “The survey results reveal a worrying picture for all multiples. Although pharmacists at just the three largest chains were invited to complete this round of the survey, other employer surveys are planned. We believe that all sensible employers whether included in this survey or not would not wish to blame others or deny the reality of conditions in many community pharmacies, but instead absorb the survey results, face up to their responsibility for the situation within their own pharmacies and make things better without delay. We want to remind all pharmacists that joining the PDA union, and getting involved, is the best way to deliver change at work.” 

PDA representatives will be sharing survey results with the employers where relevant Health and Safety committees exist. These are bodies that an employer has a legal obligation to set up if two or more safety representatives request this in writing.

The PDA will also be publishing further results from respondents from each employer over the coming weeks. In the meantime, the PDA’s Safer Pharmacies Charter is available for all pharmacist employers to adopt. The PDA encourages all pharmacies to sign up to the charter and meet the seven commitments it contains.

The Safer Pharmacies Charter was developed by frontline pharmacists and has been endorsed by several organisations since its launch. Thousands of pharmacists have registered their support for the seven commitments which promote a safe and professional working environment. The PDA’s annual Safer Pharmacies Survey measures the experiences of pharmacists in relation to the charter commitments and the results of the most recent survey will be published soon.

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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