04 Mar 2024

Stark results in annual RPS workforce wellbeing survey

Last week, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society shared the results of its latest workforce wellbeing survey, and the results make for worrying reading. 

The headline figure is that 86% of pharmacists are at a high risk of burnout, a figure that has remained consistent since 2020. When broken down by sector, this number leaps to 93% of pharmacists in community pharmacy, with 88% in hospital and 86% in general practice, at risk of burnout. 

It is important to acknowledge the RPS survey's limitations, a major one being that there are no pharmacy technicians represented in the sample of 1,273 respondents. A second point to consider is that 73% of the respondents are white – which when compared with GPhC workforce data (where 49% of pharmacist respondents are white) suggests pharmacists from white backgrounds are overrepresented in the RPS survey. It is also important to keep in mind that the number of respondents itself is low, compared to the number of pharmacy professionals in the UK. 

However, despite these limitations, it is important to use this data as a starting point to address some of the underlying causes of poor mental health in pharmacy. 

What is perhaps just as worrying as the burnout figures themselves, is that the underlying causes of poor mental health also remain consistent from 2022, namely inadequate staffing (69%), lack of work-life balance (52%), lack of protected learning time (50%), long working hours (42%), and lack of colleague or senior support (46%). Which begs the question, what isn't being done differently on a system and local level to drive up wellbeing and drive down the number of people at risk of burnout? 

We can acknowledge that staffing levels, and therefore perhaps the long working hours, work-life balance, and perhaps a reluctance towards protected learning time, are not quickly remedied. However, there are some things that should be done on a local level and other things at a system level to improve staff wellbeing – especially given that 62% of respondents to the RPS survey had considered leaving either their current role or the pharmacy profession in the last year because of the impact it was having on their mental health. 

The Workforce Wellbeing Roundtable Report, produced by the RPS and Pharmacist Support, summarises the situation succinctly: 

‘working under these conditions [of increased wokload] and the resulting impact on mental health and wellbeing is becoming normalised, which is a considerable concern. Most of the risk factors associated with burnout and wellbeing improvement are modifiable and workload related. Therefore, the solutions require individuals, organisational structures and work culture to be addressed by all actors within the system.’ 


While there is no question that healthcare professionals regularly feature on top ten lists of the most stressful jobs, this suggests that large workloads have become the norm, and we have perhaps lost sight of what a sustainable workload and work-learning-life balance looks like. Do we need to accept that this is the new norm and will stay that way, or can we test that perception – especially at a time when pharmacy professionals are facing big changes and high expectations? Ultimately, this is a question to be answered at a system and team level and addressed accordingly by each. 

More information: 


https://www.rpharms.com/Portals/0/RPS%20document%20library/Open%20access/Workforce%20Wellbeing/Workforce%20and%20Wellbeing%20Survey%202023-220224-C.pdf https://www.rpharms.com/recognition/all-our-campaigns/workforce-wellbeing