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PDA: Staff reductions putting pharmacists at risk from crime

Paul Day: CCTV, panic buttons and even security guards could be among improvements needed
Paul Day: CCTV, panic buttons and even security guards could be among improvements needed

The "continued reduction in staff" is putting pharmacies at greater risk from crime, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) Union has told C+D.

Last week (August 15), a C+D investigation exclusively revealed the extent and severity of crimes that pharmacists and their staff are facing throughout the UK. Across the 35 police authorities that provided data, there were 291 cases of violent crime – including arson – in pharmacies in 2016.

Commenting on C+D's findings, PDA Union national officer Paul Day said a "key negative factor" influencing violent crimes in pharmacies "must be the continued reduction in staff, which potentially leaves pharmacists vulnerable in the workplace".

The union is “aware of some robberies and threats of violence in pharmacies”, and “continues to be very concerned about the safety of our members, their colleagues and the public in pharmacies”, Mr Day told C+D.

"The PDA Union is always concerned by any unwillingness of employers to invest in security measures," he said. "CCTV, panic buttons and, where appropriate, even security guards, could be among improvements needed in these challenging times."

"The government could have a part to play in supporting pharmacies with such measures. But in the meantime, pharmacies have a responsibility to do all they can to ensure the safety of their employees, customers and the public."

Changes to police levels

“Like the rest of the public, our members see the reduction in police officer numbers, and the general changes to crime levels and types over recent years as a possible cause for the levels and severity of crime pharmacies are facing,” Mr Day continued.

“However, we’d rather talk about the steps that the pharmacy sector can do themselves and how pharmacists and staff can prioritise the prevention of crime, taking appropriate action where it does occur (see below)."

“So let’s start that conversation.”

Earlier this year, the PDA advised one pharmacist to close the pharmacy for the day following concerns that a lack of staff on the premises could impact patient safety.

The PDA's violent crime prevention policy

  • A zero-tolerance policy for violence towards staff working in a pharmacy, including verbal, sectarian or racist abuse directed towards pharmacists and pharmacy staff
  • A requirement for every pharmacy owner to undertake a risk assessment at individual premises level and publish a clearly defined statement on the risk of violence
  • Measures appropriate to the situation, as identified by a risk assessment, are implemented to reduce the risks of violence
  • Funding for security measures from the government to assist pharmacy contractors with their implementation
  • Regulatory standards which place more robust requirements on pharmacy owners, superintendents, chief pharmacists and managers to ensure the safety of staff.

Source: PDA, 'Stopping Violence in the Pharmacy', May 2017


Find out the extent of pharmacy crime in your area by using C+D's interactive map.

Have you experienced crime in your pharmacy?

Bark back imo

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

In answer to Sarah Smyth. Umm ... where should I start; a methadone customer is a revenue generator to a contractor ... there was one occassion when a methadone addict (whom I did not have legal authority to supply) called the Police on me and alleged assault (because I dodn't supply) ... was it lucky for me that it didn't happen in a Boots pharmacy?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager


jack The-Lad, Communications

But you too have worked as locum for Boots and you know exactly how they operate, starting with Pharmacist at bottom of pile and Meth addict at top . So zero tolerance to Meth addicts and deterring a thief is a definate NO NO.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Why bother stopping a thief. The only payoff is a possible kick inthe head and sacking.

jack The-Lad, Communications

I think some people still have morals and a duty to society, whats right and whats wrong. I think the question should be " Why would anyone want to work for Boots " . You know the knife will be in your back eventually, by whom or when is the only unknown. 

Pharmacist 7, Community pharmacist

Scary in the winter in a pharmacy open late, pitch black surrounded by fields and poor lighting. Only one young 17 yr old and the pharmacist. Exactly you are a sitting duck. 

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

Or being in a high crime area known for having guns on the street... and you're open until 10pm with a teenage dispenser. I used to walk to my car looking over my shoulder the whole way.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

There's a worrying trend of pharmacies, particularly 100hr pharmacies who will just leave the pharmacist (usually the regular pharmacist/manager/ owner) on their own in the quieter periods- all to save costs on staff. A pharmacy with £40k-£50k stock, meds with a high street value such as pregabalin and tramadol, not to mention a mouthwatering CD cabinet full of drugs. A member of staff on their own with all these meds... I bet there's so many that are just a complete sitting duck!!! 

Sarah Smythe, Information Technology

I can tell you straight away that the zero tolerance policy is a "non-starter" when you work for Boots. They always take the side of the Meth addict and will even bring proceedings against you the employee if Meth person complains. Thats a fact it happened to me and many collegues !! So beware .

M Yang, Community pharmacist

Were you just unlucky enough to have a line manager who was that pig headed and obsessed with the bottom line? I know, I can see what I'm typing. All line managers at Boots are obsessed with the bottom line. I'm sorry to hear that addicts are being put before the professional decision of the pharmacist and safety of staff. When I worked at Boots (about 4 years ago), addicts would be banned for violent and abusive behaviour, shoplifting etc. I only ever came across one manager who put up with anything like that and it was more out of fear! 

I'm so glad I work primarily in independent pharmacies. Last week I had to double ban an addict from the pharmacy. Why double ban? She was abusive when we refused her suboxone (she was under the influence). Second time round, she came in to collect her weekly Rx and we made it clear she should attend a different pharmacy period once she collected this instalment. She brought in a friend (another addict) who teamed up to give us more abuse.

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

Yep, can confirm that "zero-tolerance" is a non-starter in Boots. Used to work for them and got told that couldn't even put up a zero-tolerance notice because it's not a NHS premise. PDA should bring this up - the amount of abuse hurtled at pharmacists when they are short-staffed, trying to deal with a queue of people is scary. Obviously the position hasn't changed after all these years!

Beta Blocker, Primary care pharmacist

Absolutely correct, had a similar thing where an addict was stealing shop items but we still dispensed his methadone script as we were told to do by the AM.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I'm surprised your honest experience as detailed here has not been deleted by by the editorial team. 

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