'We're struggling': Most pharmacists say they are at risk of burnout, exclusive figures show

Industry pressures are pushing many on the forgotten frontline of healthcare to consider quitting the profession, as Martin Stew reports

Nearly 90% of pharmacists have said they are on the brink of burnout as fallout from the NHS crisis places more pressure on their services.

Figures shared by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society exclusively with ITV News revealed that three out of four workers have debated handing in their resignation.

The survey also found that, during the last six months, 44% of the participants have been verbally or physically abused.

It comes a day after new NHS data revealed a record number of people in England waited more than 12 hours in A&E in December - triple the operational standard.

Reena Barai. Credit: ITV News

"Community pharmacies are like a shock absorber. We see the patients when they can't get access to GPs or when they're struggling to decide whether to go to A&E or not," Reena Barai, a pharmacist in Sutton, told ITV News.

"This is not new for us. We've been dealing with medicine shortages for a long time. It's again just come to a head because of the funding crisis, the efficiency squeezes, and the workforce shortages.

"They're all having an impact on our morale, our wellbeing, our rates of burnout and that's putting pharmacies in crisis."

She added: "We're struggling, we're exhausted, and we're overworked. Over 600 pharmacies have closed their doors for good because they can't make ends meet."

A survey from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society found:

  • 88% of pharmacists say they are at risk of burnout

  • 44% have been verbally or physically abused in the last six months

  • Nearly three quarters - 73% - have considered quitting the profession altogether

Pharmacists say the NHS want them to do more, but the tariffs they are being paid have not increased with inflation.

They want to help ease pressure on GPs - but they get no more money for services like offering advice.

"We're at the brink of collapse. It's going to be very difficult without additional funding for community pharmacies to do any extra work," Twyford pharmacist Olivier Picard said.

Credit: ITV News

At his pharmacy, they are struggling to get their hands on many drugs and if they can - prices have shot up.

For one prescription for a sick child, Olivier said: "The payment price that I'm likely to receive is going to be £137.41, but I am being asked by the wholesalers to pay £673.75, so that's almost £550 out of pocket.

"So I'm now in a position where I have to decide whether I look after my business or I look after my patient."

Olivier chose his patient.

Although the NHS typically reimburses the difference within two months, pharmacists are left to take on the cost in the meantime.

The government said it pays contractors fairly and is investing an extra £100 million in community pharmacies.

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