A community pharmacist in Dorset has called on the Government to stop the rising level of violence and abuse being faced by local pharmacies.

Mike Hewitson launched the petition, which has attracted nearly 80,000 signatures to date, asking for the Government to take action after he was threatened with stabbing and robbed in the Beaminster Pharmacy, which he runs.

He is calling for additional funding for local pharmacies ‘to deliver a safe secure environment for staff and to help more patients’, adding that pharmacists on their ‘knees’ after ‘years of underfunding’ and an ‘overstretched workforce’.

Mr Hewitson continued: ‘My biggest fear is that until a pharmacist is found lying in a pool of blood, no one will take this abuse seriously.’

The petition has the support of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).

A spokesperson for AIMp said that the level of violence and abuse against pharmacists has increased since the pandemic.

They continued: ‘We understand the frustration patients can feel when there is a shortage of drugs or a service is withdrawn, but there is never an excuse for abuse. Incidents have also arisen when patients refused to queue or wear masks as a result of Covid.

‘It is sad to see, but none of the issues experienced by patients are the fault of the pharmacist. Unfortunately, the problem of abuse is also being seen more widely across the health care sector and is affecting GPs and hospital staff.’

The petition also comes after a PSNC survey earlier this year found that three-quarters of pharmacies had seen patients turn aggressive when told they could not have the medication they had been prescribed.

The poll also found 90% of pharmacy owners and head office representatives said that they were concerned about the well-being of their team.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the PSNC, encouraged everyone to sign the petition in order to ensure the Government took the issue seriously.

‘Abuse of community pharmacy staff, or any other healthcare professional, is never acceptable, and all in a position of responsibility must make this clear,’ she said.

‘The increase in abuse of pharmacy staff during the pandemic was an unfortunate trend, but the evidence suggests that abuse directed at pharmacists and their teams is growing in frequency and severity.’

The NPA said it had added its support to the petition because it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that minority of customers felt able to intimidate pharmacy staff.

Gareth Jones, NPA’s director of corporate affairs, said: ‘Physical and verbal abuse towards pharmacy teams has, regrettably, been a concern for some time. The NPA has held discussions with senior police representatives about this matter and have provided our members with a range of support. Abusive behaviour can never be tolerated.’