Community pharmacy multiples are taking safety measures such as installing panic buttons and hiring security staff to help them deal with abuse from the public, a trade body has said.
The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) has issued a statement explaining that its members have been prompted by rising levels of abuse to take a number of precautions, which also include CCTV, body-worn cameras and signage to deter abusive behaviour.
"Any incident of violent or threatening behaviour is unacceptable," the CCA said. "We are concerned to hear of growing rates of violence against staff."
The CCA was responding to a statement from General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chief executive Duncan Rudkin. On 1 December, Mr Rudkin said that while most patients appreciate the work done by pharmacy teams, the GPhC has heard worrying reports of pharmacy professionals and pharmacy teams experiencing abuse and even violence from members of the public.
"We want to make clear that any abuse of pharmacy staff is completely unacceptable and robust action should be quickly taken in response to any incidents, including by law enforcement," said Mr Rudkin.
He added that the GPhC has been impressed by the steps many pharmacies have taken to maintain a safe environment for their patients and staff. "We would encourage pharmacy owners to consider whether there are any further steps they should take to reduce the risk of staff experiencing abuse or even violence," he said. "We would also urge the public to treat pharmacy staff with respect at all times, and to follow the requirements on wearing face masks, as well as any social distancing measures in place within a pharmacy."
To encourage members of the public to be respectful towards members of the healthcare frontline team, the NHS has created a set of downloadable materials.
Posters, social media and display screen graphics that carry messages such as "We are here to help you. Thank you for treating us with respect" can be downloaded from the campaign resources section of the Public Health England website. A poster template is also available which allows community pharmacy teams to feature photographs of their own staff with the same messages. Wellbeing resources for managing patients are also available to those who register here.