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'One incident of violence in pharmacy is too many – that's why we're calling for dedicated funding'

In an open letter to commissioning bodies, C+D editor Beth Kennedy calls for ringfenced funding to cover additional security measures so that community pharmacy workers can feel safe at work

Dear health and social care commissioners,

 

I am writing to urge you to provide community pharmacy with dedicated funding to pay for increased security measures in response to the shocking violence that so many face at the hands of the public.

Data obtained by C+D via freedom of information requests as part of its #NoExcuseForAbuse campaign revealed that at least 27,385 incidents of crimes in pharmacies were reported to UK police forces between 2019 and 2021, with violence against staff members a significant problem.

In 2021 alone, violent crime – which includes violence against a person, public order offences, arson and criminal damage – accounted for 13.4% of all crimes in pharmacies reported in Northern Ireland, 18.1% of all crimes in England and a staggering 20.5% of all crimes in pharmacies reported in Wales, according to data shared with C+D by 33 police forces.

 

Read more: Pharmacies hit by violent crime, as police record over 1k incidents in 2021

 

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, these figures are especially shocking. Pharmacy teams, who have battled on to provide stellar patient care despite the pressures of COVID-19 and reduced funding, deserve respect from their customers. But instead, they know all too well that feeling of apprehension mixed with dread when faced with an irate customer, wondering whether this will be the time where they will have to make their own report to the police.

Just one incident of violence against pharmacy staff is too many – but the 1,437 reported examples uncovered by C+D go to show that this is a problem that no amount of well-meaning posters encouraging the public to treat staff with respect will go far enough to fix. It’s time to move beyond talking tough on stamping out violence towards pharmacy teams and towards more tangible solutions.

Because community pharmacy seems once again to be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to tackling abuse against primary care workers.

 

Read more: Call the police: The areas hardest hit by crimes in pharmacies

 

While a £5 million support package for GPs was introduced in England last year to help improve their security measures, such as installing panic buttons and CCTV, no equivalent funding exists for community pharmacy teams in the country. In fact, Northern Ireland is the only country in the UK with a similar package, whereby pharmacies can spend up to £4,000 each on additional security measures by submitting receipted invoices.

It is wonderful that decision-makers in Northern Ireland have recognised the scope of the problem and have taken proactive steps to address it. But that still leaves pharmacy teams in Wales, Scotland and England woefully under supported.

It is not enough to simply denounce patient abuse of pharmacy teams; pharmacies need adequate funding to install CCTV, panic buttons, or even body cams.

That is why C+D is today calling on commissioning bodies in England, Wales and Scotland to use Northern Ireland’s funding package as an example, and to implement similar schemes in their own countries.

 

Read more: Rocks, crowbars, pistols: the weapons wielded against pharmacy teams

 

The proof that violence in pharmacies is occurring with alarming regularity is there in the results from C+D’s investigation. And the reality is that the actual number of violent crimes occurring in pharmacies could be far higher, with some victims choosing not to report incidents to the police.

What more will it take for commissioning bodies to commit actual funds and give pharmacy teams the protection they so sorely need?

Sincerely,

Beth Kennedy

Sign C+D’s petition, which asks for commissioners to provide community pharmacies with funding to cover additional security measures, today.

Read C+D's three-minute briefing on the crimes in pharmacies investigation here

Read all of the findings from C+D's crimes in pharmacies investigation in our dedicated hub.

Have you been on the receiving end of abuse or aggressive behaviour from patients? Share your experiences on the C+D Community or if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, please contact [email protected].

 

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Pharmacist
Yeovil, Winchester & Dorchester
£50-55,000 per annum

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