Pharmacy bodies call on Government to protect pharmacy teams from violence at work

PSNC, in collaboration with the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, the Company Chemists’ Association, the National Pharmacy Association, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, is supporting an important petition calling for the Government and NHS leaders to act to keep pharmacy teams safe from violence and abuse.

The petition was started by Mike Hewitson, a community pharmacist who has been threatened with stabbing and robbed in his own pharmacy. PSNC and the other national pharmacy bodies strongly believe that no healthcare professional should have to deal with this, and pharmacists and their teams should be better protected.

Community pharmacies play an integral role in the delivery of primary care and most patients are highly appreciative of the hard work of local pharmacists and pharmacy teams from dispensing medicines and administering vaccines to providing medical advice and health monitoring services. However, a minority of patients are not and far too many pharmacy staff are experiencing violence and abuse just for doing their jobs. As an invaluable member of the NHS family, pharmacies should have access to the same security funds that other important areas of primary care like GPs do.

This follows on from PSNC’s recent Pharmacy Pressures Survey of 1,132 staff from and 418 bosses of 5,000 pharmacies found that:

  • 75% of pharmacies have seen patients turn aggressive when told they cannot have the medication they have been prescribed.
  • 49% of staff say patient abuse is undermining their mental wellbeing.
  • 90% of pharmacy business owners/head office representatives said that they were concerned about the wellbeing of their pharmacy team(s).

PSNC’s support of the ‘Stop violence against local pharmacies’ petition is part of our work with the other pharmacy organisations to continue to raise awareness of the pressures on the sector, including highlighting the abuse that pharmacists and their teams are increasingly experiencing.

PSNC Chief Executive Janet Morrison said:

“Abuse of community pharmacy staff, or any other healthcare professional, is never acceptable, and all in a position of responsibility must make this clear. The increase in abuse of pharmacy staff during the pandemic was an unfortunate trend, but the evidence suggests that abuse directed at pharmacists and their teams is growing in frequency and severity.

We would very much encourage everyone to sign this petition. The more signatures this petition has, the more credibility it has and the more seriously the Government will have to take this issue.”

What pharmacy teams can do

If you face verbal abuse from patients, please don’t feel like you have to tolerate it. The pharmacy regulations say that if a contractor or their staff (or other people at the premises) are threatened with violence, a contractor may refuse to dispense a prescription. This also applies if the person threatens to commit a criminal offence. Obviously, refusal is also an option if any of those threats are carried out.

We are aware of the following resources which may be helpful, and others may be available from other pharmacy support organisations.

PSNC will keep pushing for other measures to help pharmacy contractors and their teams.

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