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COVID-19: Welsh pharmacists report increase in abuse from patients

RPS Wales: Being abusive towards pharmacy staff is “totally unacceptable behaviour”
RPS Wales: Being abusive towards pharmacy staff is “totally unacceptable behaviour”

Welsh pharmacists are reporting an increase in abusive behaviour from patients as they deal with the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, RPS Wales has said.

It follows similar reports of a rise in incidents of abuse in other parts of the UK, including England and Northern Ireland, as covered by C+D last month (March 27). The abuse experienced by pharmacy teams has included verbal attacks and medicines being thrown at staff.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has made police aware of the increase in these types of incidents and has asked for “greater support and reassurance from the police to help protect pharmacy staff across the UK”.

‘Fights outside premises’

RPS Wales director Elen Jones said: “I have been shocked to hear of pharmacy teams being verbally abused and even spat at. I have also heard of fights starting outside pharmacy premises.

“This is totally unacceptable behaviour. Community pharmacists and their teams are doing everything they possibly can to help in very difficult circumstances. They are under significant pressure and they need the help of the public so they can continue to provide vital healthcare support,” she added.

RPS Wales said it had also contacted the police about the levels of abuse pharmacy teams now face, to ensure that “all pharmacy teams across the NHS are kept safe and protected against any forms of aggressive, violent and abusive behavior”.

The representative body said it was encouraging members of the public to familiarise themselves with new working arrangements for pharmacy. These include revised opening times that mean pharmacies can “open a little later and close over lunchtime” during the COVID-19 crisis, and social distancing measures.

Director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Paul Day told C+D today (April 6) that since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the organisation has heard from members across the UK that abuse “has now become an everyday occurrence”.

The PDA has campaigned for support in tackling violence in pharmacies for a number of years, advocating a policy of “zero-tolerance of abuse of pharmacists”. “[Abusive patients] should be banned from the pharmacy: you can’t have people being racially, sexually, physically or verbally abusive to pharmacists – that’s unacceptable,” Mr Day said.


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