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Xrayser: What I learned from three pharmacy ram raids in two months

"By the third ram raid I was barely sleeping at night"

After burglars drove through the door of Xrayser’s pharmacy three times in a bid to steal toiletries, he learned a lesson about fear that he applies to the new pharmacy contract

“Fear is a funny thing,” I thought the other day, stood at the top of a eight-foot high stepladder. Granted, eight feet isn’t very high, but that put my head about 14 feet off the ground trying to change a bulb another 18 inches above my head, and I’m not good with heights. They might say “fear is a misuse of the imagination”, but I have a very vivid imagination.

Of course, there’s lots of things to fear as a community pharmacist. We fear a dispensing error, causing harm to a patient, and falling foul of contractual or company requirements. But we also fear crime, which C+D has repeatedly shown is no stranger to pharmacy. Graham Brack’s recent article about his steel cage foiling a break-in, took me back to when my pharmacy experienced a series of ram raids.

Although we weren’t the only business in the area to be attacked, we were the only one to endure three consecutive attacks over just two months. The simple but effective formula was to steal an old car with little security, reverse it into the door, then run in and sweep toiletries off the shelves into a large builder’s sack while the alarm rings. They were in and out within 90 seconds, so even though the police arrived within five minutes, they were long gone.

Each time around dawn I’d meet the police at the pharmacy, then half an hour later they would be gone – leaving me alone with the mess and damage to call the insurance company. Our CCTV recorded a lovely clear image of a man in gloves and hoodie. But although a forensics officer got very excited about a boot print, it inevitably came to nought.

By the third ram raid I was barely sleeping, just waiting for a seemingly inevitable phone call at dawn. The city council refused permission to fit bollards. The only alternative seemed to be fitting an industrial shutter and grill that would make us look less a welcoming and trusted pharmacy and more like a stronghold from the post-apocalyptic Mad Max films. Finally, after much deliberation, we hit upon a discrete stable bar at knee height that can be removed by day, but at night acts to make intrusion with the average small car impractical.

If this episode has taught me anything after 20 years in business, it’s that fear is always a greater barrier to change than anything else. I feel the same way about our reimbursement package and the new pharmacy contract. It's with trepidation each month that I unfold the FP34 statement. Emails from our local pharmaceutical committee contract support officer go unopened, for fear of how I’ll find time for the additional activities, but I know the truth that inaction is not an option. We have to change our business practices away from dispensing towards services, but sadly that can’t be addressed by something as simple as a stable bar.

A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser

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