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RPS: Pharmacists can be reassured they are covered by assault law

RPS: Reports of verbal and physical abuse from the public are hugely concerning
RPS: Reports of verbal and physical abuse from the public are hugely concerning

Pharmacy teams in England and Wales should “have reassurance” that they are covered by protective laws against violent attacks, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 allows judges to “apply more severe sentences” to people found guilty of physical attacks on emergency or healthcare workers, the RPS said in a statement yesterday (April 13).

The act, which the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) lobbied for in parliament in 2017, recognises pharmacy teams as part of the NHS workforce that may be subjected to violence from some members of the public.

The legislation applies to pharmacists and pharmacy teams in England and Wales, but not Scotland or Northern Ireland.

RPS president Sandra Gidley said reports of pharmacists and pharmacy team members being “subject to threats and both verbal and physical abuse” from the public are “hugely concerning”.

“This is unacceptable at any time, but particularly so at a time when pharmacy teams are working flat out to meet increased demand [during the COVID-19 pandemic] and are doing all that they can to support the public,” she added.

When attacks are “of a physical nature”, it’s important that pharmacy teams “have reassurance that the law is there to protect them”, Ms Gidley said.

“Pharmacy teams must have a zero-tolerance approach to any form of violent or abusive behaviour,” she added.

Earlier this month (April 6), C+D reported on the increase in abuse from patients that Welsh pharmacy teams had experienced.

Last month, pharmacy teams from across the UK revealed the shocking abuse they had experienced since the COVID-19 outbreak.

PDA: Multiples must have zero-tolerance policy

PDA director Paul Day said the organisation “made sure the act included pharmacists” as part of its longstanding campaign to end violence in pharmacies.

“Sadly the frequency of incidents across the UK has increased dramatically in this crisis period, but perhaps that means that pharmacy employers and others will finally support our campaign and we can have zero tolerance of abuse in every community pharmacy,” he told C+D today (April 14).

The PDA also called for a “zero-tolerance” approach to abuse of pharmacists and pharmacy teams to be implemented by multiples last week (April 10).

The PDA said the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the body that represents large pharmacy chains, should ask its members to “immediately adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach with clear statements to patients”.

Multiples should also have enforcement measures “that put the safety of pharmacists and their teams before the profit that can be made from an abusive member of the public”, the PDA added.

Have patients verbally or physically abused you since the outbreak of COVID-19?

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

I've learned over the years to give as good as you get , bullies soon get a taste of their own medicine .The so called Law sympatizes with defendants too often and swallows their sob stories , i've not come across one succesful prosecution for verbal , racist , threatening , physiical abuse on a pharmacist or staff .

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

It happens in all law. Family law, commercial, PI, etc. The Court system in the UK is mocked by most of the world.

V K P, Community pharmacist

we are protected only after physically assaulted. how about the verbal abuse??????? be prepared to get beaten up guys for the support to kick in.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Had a bit of verbal over the years but no physical. Being six foot and sixteen stone helps I suppose! Nice to know though that the law covers us exactly the same as it covers other human beings in the country. Confirmation that we are actually people.......

CAPT FX, Locum pharmacist

The RPS should be applauded for clarifying this. It is part and parcel of being a Pharmacist to be verbally and Physicslly abused all the time. But what makes it worse is that they are no set procedures to enforce these laws. Who enforces it, the Owners it the GPHC. I was physically attacked by relatives of a colleague who thought I had reported then to the Area Manager. If it was not my ability to protect myself they would have harmed me. The Police, as expected did not turn up and The owner, a very big multiple pretended like nothing happened. This is real staff while the Profession pretends all is well.
Yes the Public can be abusive but in my experience it depends how you handle them.
For me the worst type of verbal, emotional and physical abuse comes from the very colleagues we work with. We earn this simply by trying to adhere to SOP's and the laws that govern our profession. You kindly ask a colleague to print a due slip, and if you are a Locum, that officially will be your last booking. At times the very public we are accusing now are at times spectators to young or teen assistants storming out of the Pharmacy because they are corrected for picking and dispensing the wrong product. They stretch to the limit the very elasticity of our professionals because they know we can not shout back. One asks the question of why we do CPD on communication: skills and everything else when we are saddled with staff who are barely literate. The same team misinterpret patient inquiries and take it personally when patients are genuinely frustrated by poor quality service. Some of the language, like " you can go elsewhere if you want" is so commonplace you wonder if Community Pharmacy is a business or a non-profit Government department or. Parastatal. Consideration should be made of both aspects before always blaming the patient. I was brought up to value the fact that the persona you present determines the response you get from people.

Greatly Pedantic and Highly Clueless, Senior Management

Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) lobbied for in parliament in 2017.............

Yet again there is only one organisation in pharmacy that has some cojones and tries to get something done. 


Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

As always, ts nice to see we are taken seriously if assaulted.... It doesnt stop the assault though, just  makes the prosecutions life easier after it. There is NO extra protection for anybody in this

Watto 59, Community pharmacist

One spitting incident, one attempted physical assault, one drunk and disorderly. Police were called over drunk and disorderly,,, they did not turn up. Several bad tempered verbal abuse incidents.

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