Signs displayed in a supermarket pharmacy outlining a zero-tolerance policy to violence against staff and urging patients to ‘think’ before they speak, reflects a ‘decimation of morale’ among the pharmacy workforce, those in the sector have said.

The signs, put up at a Tesco pharmacy in Oxfordshire, have been at the centre of an online forum debate, where a member of the public said they were ‘appalled’ by such ‘passive aggressive signage’.

The person, who posted anonymously, said the signs were seen at a pharmacy within the supermarket chain in Didcot.

Within a photograph posted on the forum, signs can be seen saying, in capital letters: ‘Polite notice. We tolerate a zero tolerance policy. Swearing, threats or any act of violence will not be tolerated. Anyone giving verbal abuse to members of staff will be asked to leave immediately.’ Another said, also in capitals: ‘Think before you act!!’

Meanwhile, there were two signs outlining a 10-working day wait policy for repeat requests to be ready. These signs also warned that: ‘Due to unforeseen circumstances we are exceedingly busy. Please wait for a text message from the Tesco pharmacy and not from your surgery. Thank you for your cooperation.’

Two other notices apologised for any inconvenience caused by a one-hour closure for a ‘statutory lunch break’.

Within the online forum – hosted by the Money Saving Expert – the member of public said that while they sympathised with staff ‘regarding their workload’ and closures in the local area, the signs were ‘obviously not official Tesco signs’.

They added that: ‘Had Tesco created the signs, they would have gone through formal copy review to ensure they were not putting themselves at legal risk or harming their brand.

‘Imagine what it would be like if the fruit and veg team started putting up signs saying not to complain about the lack of bananas.’

But leaders across the sector and pharmacists themselves have hit back at the complaints and explained that such signage was needed because of the ongoing level of abuse and violence pharmacy teams face.

One pharmacist responding on social media site Twitter wrote: ‘Trust me, as a community pharmacist, I wish we didn’t need these signs, but we do.’

Another added: ‘Only somebody with zero experience working in community pharmacy would condemn this signage. Abuse every single day, through no fault of our own.’

And Thorrun Govind, TV pharmacist and former chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board, responded: ‘What we are providing in a pharmacy is more complex than bananas. These signs highlight the decimation in morale of our workforce.’

She added: ‘The abuse we are facing for doing our jobs is intolerable. We are doing the best we can in an underfunded health system.

‘Ultimately, we need the public to support us – order your medication in good time – we are dealing with shortages. You aren’t the only patient. We try our best to make you feel like our only patient, but the system isn’t supporting us.’

The situation comes amid ongoing concerns around the ‘burden’ of medicine supply issues for both pharmacy teams and patients. New data last week suggested more than one in 10 people have had to visit multiple pharmacies to obtain their prescription medications in the past year.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by Community Pharmacy England – formerly known as PSNC – found the majority of pharmacists have experienced aggression from patients due to medicine supply issues.

Of the more than 2,000 pharmacy team members surveyed, one third (31%) said that they were ‘barely coping’ with workplace pressures, while 7% said that they were ‘not coping at all’. Of ‘particular concern’ to PSNC was the fact that 45% cited patient abuse as a reason for their struggles.

And 84% said that medicine supply issues had caused patient aggression – up from 75% in last year’s survey, which also had half the number of pharmacy team member respondents compared to this year.

Tesco has been approached for comment.