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Health minister hits out at ‘appalling’ abuse after pharmacist stabbed

Northern Ireland's health minister Robin Swann has condemned violence directed towards pharmacy teams, after a pharmacist was stabbed in the hand during an aggravated burglary in north Belfast.

Mr Swann said that “abuse or assaults of any kind” targeted at health and social care staff “will not be tolerated” in a statement published this morning (March 7).

Pharmacist Conor McAreavey was stabbed in the hand with a knife at Teague’s Pharmacy on Antrim Road, north Belfast on Saturday (March 5).

 

Read more: Man to appear in court after being charged with burglary of Lloydspharmacy branch

 

Mr McAreavey was “very lucky” not to have suffered tendon damage when he was stabbed, he said in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland yesterday (March 6).

“I have been a pharmacist for 26 years and unfortunately this isn’t the first time we’ve been held up here, but it’s the first time I’ve been stabbed,” he added.

Mr Swann said he was “appalled to hear of the assault”, adding that “pharmacists work at the very heart of our communities, providing a critical health service for everyone” and “deserve our utmost respect and admiration”.

“My thoughts are very much with the pharmacist and the wider pharmacy team,” he added. 

 

PSNI: Two arrested and “remain in police custody”

 

Detectives investigating the incident arrested a 36-year-old man and 29-year-old woman earlier today, a spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed to C+D.

“Both remain in police custody at this time,” they added.

 

Read more: Police received almost 16k reports of crime in pharmacies in just 2 years

 

A man entered the pharmacy on March 5, “shortly before 5:20pm”, the PSNI said in a statement published yesterday.

He was reported to have “produced a hammer and damaged a plastic window” before stabbing “a staff member in the hand with a knife”.

He then left the pharmacy and “made off towards the Hillman Street area”, the PSNI said.

Police believe that nothing was taken during the attack, the PSNI said, and the injured member of staff was then treated for his wound.

 

 

“A horrible attack on a pharmacy team going about their normal job”

 

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI), condemned the incident, adding that it “was a horrible attack on a pharmacy team going about their normal job helping people on a Saturday afternoon”.

“An attack on a local community pharmacy team impacts lots of people who rely on us. Our thoughts are with the pharmacist who was stabbed in the hand and the pharmacy staff who were subjected to this horrendous ordeal,” he added.

 

Read more: Saving lives, facing gunpoint, serving celebrities: one pharmacist’s 45 years in community pharmacy

 

CPNI has asked anyone who witnessed anything to either contact the PSNI or Crimestoppers.

The PSNI is encouraging witnesses to come forward and contact detectives on 101 quoting reference number 1395 05/03/22.

A report can also be submitted online using the PSNI’s non-emergency reporting form. Alternatively, people can also call the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or contact them online.

 

Rise in abuse and violence

 

Responding to reports of the incident, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association took to Twitter to call the attack “unacceptable”.

 

Read more: PDA reports rise in calls from pharmacists intimidated by anti-vaxxers

 

It comes following concerns raised by pharmacy organisations about “worrying reports” of incidents of abuse and violence against pharmacy professionals and their teams.

Earlier this year, C+D revealed that police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received at least 15,858 reports of crime – which included episodes of violence – committed in pharmacies in 2019 and 2020 alone.

 

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact Pharmacist Support by emailing [email protected] or calling 08081682233/0808 168 5133 for free.

 

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