Rising aggression from patients and the wider public during the coronavirus pandemic ‘cannot be tolerated’, and extra protection from the police is urgently needed for pharmacy teams, The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said.

In a letter written to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the RPS has asked that pharmacy teams across the NHS are kept safe against all forms of aggressive, violent and abusive behaviour from patients and customers.

Increasing numbers of pharmacy teams are reporting a rise in cases of abuse.

No excuse for abuse

Chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) Simon Dukes, has also commented on ‘the disgraceful behaviour of the minority’ of patients towards pharmacy staff.

‘Yes [patients] are frightened and frustrated, but that is no excuse to abuse our staff,’ he said.

‘I’ve heard accounts of utterly disgusting and idiotic behaviour from the public, and I’ve even heard of pharmacies looking for security staff to protect their own staff and other patients.’

One pharmacist told The Pharmacist that ‘most’ of his colleagues had experienced some form of abuse from patients, claiming that one team had been recently being referred to as ‘Nazis’ for not having certain medicines in stock.

Zero-tolerance needed

The RPS has emphasised the need for pharmacy staff to feel safe and supported to work under already difficult circumstances. The body has requested the police adopt a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to people who display any acts of abuse towards pharmacy staff.

RPS Director of Pharmacy and Member Experience, Robbie Turner, commented: ‘Pharmacy teams have been working incredibly hard on the frontline to support the public and the NHS during these challenging times.

‘It is disappointing to see that some members of the public are behaving poorly towards pharmacy teams. This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

‘We have written to all patient groups, associations, organisations and charities around how they should support pharmacy teams. We must ensure all NHS frontline workers are kept safe during these difficult times.’

Meanwhile yesterday, the RPS called for pharmacy teams to be given access to priority shopping hours during the coronavirus outbreak, alongside other NHS staff.