During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists and their teams have played a “vital role on the frontline”, going “above and beyond to help patients during one of the most challenging periods that has faced our health service”, Ms Gidley said.
There were reports of an increase in “abusive and threatening behaviour” against staff, including “physical assaults”, she added.
“This is unacceptable at any time, but particularly so when they are doing all they can to support the public,” Ms Gidley said, although she noted that “the vast majority of the public were understanding of the enormous pressures facing pharmacy teams”.
The RPS said it agrees with a “zero-tolerance approach to any form of violent or abusive behaviour”, and supports the government's plans to extend the maximum prison sentence of an assailant from one year to two years under the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018.
“While the consultation at this time is looking at increasing the maximum sentence to two years, this should be kept under review to ensure the Act is working as intended,” Ms Gidley said.
The letter was in response to a parliamentary consultation launched last month (July 13) that seeks views on increasing the maximum penalty for assaulting an emergency care worker from one year to two.
Pharmacy teams in England and Wales are covered by the Act, as it defines an emergency worker as including a “person employed for the purposes of providing, or engaged to provide NHS health services, or services in the support of the provision of NHS health services, and whose general activities in doing so involve face to face interaction with individuals receiving the services or with other members of the public”.