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Bruised, battered and broken: bullied in hospital pharmacy

Bruised, battered and broken. These are the words I would use to describe my emotional state having experienced bullying in pharmacy.


As someone who has been described as hardworking, conscientious and competent, I used to think if I do a good job, I will be respected and valued in my workplace. I couldn’t be more wrong. Since qualifying, the hierarchy and power dynamic of the senior management teams in hospital pharmacy has repeatedly resulted in bullying and harassment as a standard “style” of management. I speak as a victim and a witness and know too well that this damages the health and well-being of keen and aspiring pharmacists, but also creates a vortex, draining hope and ambition from such individuals.


As I look at the pharmacy hierarchy in a hospital pharmacy department, I see a stale and stifling climate, where ambition and drive are beaten out of you, where innovation and quality improvement initiatives suggestions are quashed within the same breath and kindness to others and fairness of opportunity is simply a mirage.


I began a pharmacy career with the belief that my understanding of scientific principles of objectivity, experimentation and establishing facts would hold me in good stead as a hospital pharmacist. How wrong was I. None of these skills are used high up in the heady heights of senior hierarchy? My experience of senior managers is they are biased, rude, egotistical, selective and instil fear in the department. They aren’t interested in the facts. They look to find a reason to punish. It might be denying a holiday request, unrealistic expectations of how many patients can be seen or stopping you from speaking when you are being unfairly lambasted by them. They also have their groupies, who cheer and sneer along with the chief bully which intensifies the moment and adds layers of humiliation. These groupies are usually the next most senior members of the pharmacy department.


My experiences of bullying include openly being undermined, insulted and forced to agree to things without time to consider the request. I have been told to make up for the time lost from sickness, which happened because I was working over 45 hours a week routinely due to the work pressures, whilst my manager relaxed and holidayed with family, knowing full well I was working beyond my agreed hours and needed support to manage workload and expectation. I know of lies about me and those associated with me said and emailed to others in the department. These instances were by all people that were my seniors and the most senior member of the department.


I usually feel anxious at work and I have no support around me. I feel alone in a building filled with people paid to make people better. Is that really what I should feel when I go to do my job?


I often wonder why do those in a position of power feel so threatened and show aggression to those simply keen to do the best they can? I often wonder why they work in packs, attacking innocent prey who aren’t provoking or attacking them. Questions I probably won’t find answers to. And questions David Attenborough can’t answer either. Apparently, as humans, we operate above our primitive instincts.


During my career in hospital pharmacy, I have found it is not conducive to professional growth, career progression or opportunity. It has sapped all the good feelings towards pharmacy out of me. I feel disheartened by what I have experienced and truly can’t see that this endemic will change anytime soon. We need good people to change this, but good people don’t damage people to get to the top and good people get beaten down by those in power. The bullies have allies and calling out their behaviour only makes it worse for the victims.


Is there bullying in hospital pharmacy?


Without a doubt, yes.


The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous

20 thoughts on “Bruised, battered and broken: bullied in hospital pharmacy”

  1. I totally agree. This has happened to me and in the end you would think it is all your fault and you are incompetent. Hoewever, now I have moved to a different hospital and the team is kind and supportive. I flourished and realized that I just needed encouragement and not constant ‘improvements’.

  2. Excellent article. I have witnessed this across many NHS trusts in various forms. It is important that not only awareness is raised but more work is effectively taken to address the situation.
    It is not only the bullying that is a problem, the other unforgivable aspect is that when identified there seems to be an unwillingness or capability to tackle it….this needs to change from now….

  3. Julie Hunnable-Turner

    I guess I’m quite lucky then, as this isn’t a problem where I work. Years ago there was a Manager who was like this but since she’s been gone things have been fine.

  4. Yes it happens, a lot. In hospital, community and many workplaces. They made an amazing point saying ‘ we need good people but good people don’t damage other people on the way to the top’ that is so true. What can everyone do to change all this? Do people have to keep moving around when they do pharmacy..

  5. I have experienced very similar situations in hospital Pharmacy as well as community. Don’t know what it is that makes Pharmacy such a bitch environment to work in.
    Problem with hospital is that people feel they are untouchable. Too much bullying, especially with pre regs.

  6. There is a reverse-misogyny if thats even a term. In the female dominated hapital pharmacy sector. Female tutors absolutely toy with male junior colleagues and pre-regs and not in the funny way.

  7. There is a reverse-misogyny if thats even a term. In the female dominated hapital pharmacy sector. Female tutors absolutely toy with male junior colleagues and pre-regs and not in the funny way.
    There is also institutional racism with hospital pharmacy where BME pharmacists are not given a fair opportunity as their white colleagues. I’ve observed this diligently.

  8. I think those managers who treat staff with bullying and employ the pack mentality of a wild animal should be named and shamed. This has not happened to me but I have seen some really good pharmacists brought to their knees by senseless selfish managers. A great article that needs to be shared widely

  9. Thank you so much for this article. This is something myself and several of my colleagues are experiencing in one form or another. I can’t believe how accurate it describes what is going on. Institutional racism is so endemic, I find more so with technicians, and relationships which are a significant conflict of interest are brushed under the carpet. Human resources are either naively buying the untruths or involved in the corruption. We need a national enquiry into these practices where so much is being compromised such as funding, morale and above all patient safety. Thank you for this article. May it be a first step towards correcting and improving hospital pharmacy services to a just and morally upright profession as it should be.

  10. I have been on the end of bullying and have seen people getting bullied at different hospital pharmacies in GGC. I feel it is due to the fact it is mostly a female environment and despite Human Resources being brought in on numerous occasions the Senior staff still get away with it!!
    This is 100% true and not made up. I have witnessed people in tears. I have heard both racist and bigoted comments from senior staff also and this needs to stop now!!

  11. Pharmacy Executive Team, NHSGG&C

    We are sorry to hear this and agree the behaviour you have described is unacceptable. We believe that no one should feel bullied in the workplace. Please get in touch with the executive team directly using the contact details on our Staffnet page so we have the opportunity to support you and investigate your concerns.

    NHSGGC recognises that individuals may wish to remain anonymous, so if you would prefer you can contact the HR support unit, use your union representative if appropriate or report via the Board’s whistleblowing policy.

  12. Sounds like time to use an independent representative body e.g The PDA , it has maneged to fight Boots successfully…..

  13. Totally agree. I am a Locum pharmacist in hospital and decided to take on this role for this reason. I was not happy in my hospital setting and decided to move on, I did not want to be tied down to a job that I was unhappy in. I have witnessed and have come across this in probably 80% of the hospitals I have worked in. Most of the places I have worked who require Locum pharmacists are short of staff due to the high turnover of staff, and I believe that this article answers why there is a problem with staffing in many hospitals. I hope something is done about this someday.

  14. Great article and great courage. From personal experience, please be aware that if you speak up and contact HR and the board as suggested in one of the posts above you maybe kissing you career goodbye. I did speak up and the consequences were no pleasant. Keep speaking up to highlight the culture, even if it’s anonymously . Articles like this are important to drive the changes that are required in the profession ????????????????????????

  15. While I agree with some parts of the article I.e. the female domination and bitching -I disagree with the fact that people don’t have opportunity to speak directly to the person that they feel is being unfairunfair on them. You should remember,however, that they are above you- they are senior and what they say goes-simple. If you don’t like it -tell them -if they don’t plan to change the job/circumstances -leave and find a different job. Bias exists in life, unfortunately, and it’s everywhere. I am a junior pharmacist and seen managers shout, being unfair while trying to support and carry on with their view. I have also seen -staff doing bitchy things to protect their roles, because they feel threatened by more capable young staff. The worst thing for me is senior people who refuse to teach- It’s your responsibility to teach! It will maintain the skills and it has an impact on NHS and patient care in the future-senior staff who don’t teach juniors being afraid of sharing their skills…. this is unacceptable. I also like to point something else out – your job as a hospital pharmacist is not about YOU-it is about the service and patient care-so it is unlikely to change to fit your wishes- if you don’t like it or can’t provide the service leave-go somewhere else where you’d fit and will be happy as well. It’s nice to have supportive colleagues to talk about your personal feelings and problems but doesn’t always happen and it does not have to happen-use your family/friends. Sometimes you have to stay late – sometimes you can sneak out 5-10 mins early -this is a hospital -not a McDonalds -you have patients to look after and if you’re needed after your hours you will stay or arrange suitable handover and should not expect a medal for that -this is your job that you’ve chosen to do. You can’t say oh 5.00 I’m out-it does not work like this -hospitals don’t shut. Be mindful -I have seen this attitude from junior staff and this is wrong- but I guess that comes from teaching and here’s the role of a pre-reg tutor- its difficult – pre-reg tutors be an example -teach your trainee how to behave in hospital -be open and honest.

  16. Excellent article. I agree 100%. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced. By turning a blind eye I’ve even condoned it. Whilst many great pieces of advice exist here ONE action I found to be most influential and substantive. I started recording the conversations. Unbelievably strengthening.

  17. Excellent article. I have experienced a most horrendous, career-destructive, sly, targeted bullying in a hospital pharmacy in Alberta, Canada at the onset of my career. I was only 23. I think a “me too” campaign or some way for victims to be heard is much needed.

  18. There should be a pharmacist union that needs to fight bullying management style and culture. Such bullies should be fired, I mean the entire management chain should be fired. If they have no sympathy for the staff how can the patients feel safe?

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