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RPS: Pharmacists can be reassured they are covered by assault law

Pharmacy teams in England and Wales should “have reassurance” that they are covered by protective laws against violent attacks, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 allows judges to “apply more severe sentences” to people found guilty of physical attacks on emergency or healthcare workers, the RPS said in a statement yesterday (April 13).

The act, which the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) lobbied for in parliament in 2017, recognises pharmacy teams as part of the NHS workforce that may be subjected to violence from some members of the public.

The legislation applies to pharmacists and pharmacy teams in England and Wales, but not Scotland or Northern Ireland.

RPS president Sandra Gidley said reports of pharmacists and pharmacy team members being “subject to threats and both verbal and physical abuse” from the public are “hugely concerning”.

“This is unacceptable at any time, but particularly so at a time when pharmacy teams are working flat out to meet increased demand [during the COVID-19 pandemic] and are doing all that they can to support the public,” she added.

When attacks are “of a physical nature”, it’s important that pharmacy teams “have reassurance that the law is there to protect them”, Ms Gidley said.

“Pharmacy teams must have a zero-tolerance approach to any form of violent or abusive behaviour,” she added.

Earlier this month (April 6), C+D reported on the increase in abuse from patients that Welsh pharmacy teams had experienced.

Last month, pharmacy teams from across the UK revealed the shocking abuse they had experienced since the COVID-19 outbreak.

PDA: Multiples must have zero-tolerance policy

PDA director Paul Day said the organisation “made sure the act included pharmacists” as part of its longstanding campaign to end violence in pharmacies.

“Sadly the frequency of incidents across the UK has increased dramatically in this crisis period, but perhaps that means that pharmacy employers and others will finally support our campaign and we can have zero tolerance of abuse in every community pharmacy,” he told C+D today (April 14).

The PDA also called for a “zero-tolerance” approach to abuse of pharmacists and pharmacy teams to be implemented by multiples last week (April 10).

The PDA said the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the body that represents large pharmacy chains, should ask its members to “immediately adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach with clear statements to patients”.

Multiples should also have enforcement measures “that put the safety of pharmacists and their teams before the profit that can be made from an abusive member of the public”, the PDA added.

Have patients verbally or physically abused you since the outbreak of COVID-19?

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