The Community Pharmacy Provider Board (CPPB) in Greater Manchester has secured funding for safety and security measures for all community pharmacies in the area.

The funding will assist with the costs of increased safety and security measures that were put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, the CPPB said.

Contractors will have to complete a self-assessment audit, and then will be notified whether the safety and security arrangements fall within the scope of the funding.

This comes amid growing calls and initiatives to protect pharmacists’ safety. Last week, Boots announced that it was rolling out body cams to over 300 stores, following a successful pilot that saw violent and abusive incidents against pharmacy staff reduced by 45%.

Community pharmacist, and Liberal Democrat councillor in South Somerset, Mike Hewitson said that unplanned pharmacy closures had a big impact on goodwill towards pharmacies.

He added: ‘People understandably get very upset because they are unable to get their prescriptions from their regular pharmacy, for example because that pharmacy is shut. That leads to big confrontations with patients when they turn up at the pharmacy and they can't get what they want.’

In August, Mr Hewitson launched a petition, which has over 98,000 signatures, asking for the Government to take action on the abuse faced by pharmacy staff after he was threatened with stabbing and robbed in the Beaminster Pharmacy, which he runs.

Mr Hewitson said he hopes the petition will increase conversation and awareness around the issue, and what he sees as the unequal treatment of pharmacists.

He explained: ‘I want pharmacy to be treated in the same way as the rest of the health system. If somebody abuses a GP, then the GP can kick somebody off their list.

‘Whereas if somebody abuses a member of the pharmacy team, if they have an NHS prescription, you can refuse them access to the premises, but they still have the right to use your service. There’s no equity there.

‘I think we have to look at how protection can be addressed for pharmacy teams, and NHS England is best placed to do that,’ he added.

Elen Jones, director for Wales at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told The Pharmacist that additional funding for safety equipment was ‘one approach’ to protect pharmacists’ safety, but argued further solutions such as by tackling patient anxiety.

She said: ‘During the pandemic, we did actually do quite a lot of work with local police forces across Great Britain and many of them actually did respond and were more visible around community pharmacy premises.

‘There were also some changes to legislation for crimes committed against healthcare professionals […] and pharmacists were added to the list of healthcare professionals included.

‘But I think it's got to be more than just finances. It's got to be looking at solutions looking at how we can ensure that the frustration doesn't happen in the first place. I don't think people set out to be angry with healthcare professionals. It's often something else that's causing it. Sometimes it's anxiety: are they going to get their medicines?’

Ms Jones said that workforce pressures on pharmacy were contributing to longer waiting times which could cause frustrations for patients.

‘For me, it's about reducing that anxiety the patients are feeling that causes the frustration in the beginning. If we can work on that and work on the pressures that teams are facing, then so much the better,’ she said.