‘There is still a higher-than-normal level of anxiety in pharmacy.’


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Calls to PSS during the most acute phase of COVID-19 increased by 88%, with most related to the pandemic as well as stress, anxiety and patient care

There was an 88% increase in calls from distressed pharmacists over the most acute six-week period of the COVID-19 pandemic, says Kay Dunkley, Executive Officer at the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS).

Of all calls received by PSS between 12 March and 24 April, 64% directly related to the pandemic.

“Call rates increased from 1.02 per day 12 months prior to 1.9 calls per day, thus the call rate to PSS almost doubled during peak of COVID-19 period,” said Ms Dunkley.

“We had an increased proportion of more experienced pharmacists calling us, in addition we had an increased proportion of female callers.”

Meanwhile the 10-week period covering 24 February to 4 May saw a 31% increase in call numbers.

According to data collated by PSS, there was a total of 114 calls over that time, with 50 of these directly related to COVID-19 issues.

The most common reasons for calling related to COVID-19 were regarding stress and anxiety, clinical matters relating to patient care, employment conditions and workload, own health and own mental health, legal issues relating to medication supply, conflict within the pharmacy including with the manager or owner of the pharmacy, perceived bullying and conflict with patients.

“What is interesting is the increased number of calls which related to concern about own health in the COVID-19 calls (10% versus 1.5%) – thus concern about being infected was a common reason to call,” explained Ms Dunkley.

“Likewise there was an increase in calls about workload – 14% were related to COVID-19 compared to 8% in non-COVID-19 calls. Also with clinical care of patients – 24% were related to COVID-19 versus 11% non-COVID-19.”

Calls to PSS continue to be slightly higher than the same time last year, confirms Ms Dunkley.

“My impression from the type of calls we are receiving is that there is still a level of anxiety in the pharmacy profession that is higher than normal, although we are not receiving COVID-19 specific calls now,” she said.

Anonymous and confidential support is available by phoning the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910 between 8am and 11pm (EST) every day of the year. 

In a recent webinar run by the AJP and PSS,  pharmacist and counsellor Helen Lowy discussed how to lead pharmacy teams through the COVID-19 crisis by creating safe environments. Access our CPD Activity on Leading Teams through Unprecedented Uncertainty here or access the full webinar here.

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