Almost three-quarters of community pharmacists report an increase in abuse by patients during 2021, finds survey

Exclusive: Of the 400 people working in community pharmacy who responded to The Pharmaceutical Journal's 2021 salary survey, 295 said they had experienced an increase in abuse during the past year.

Nearly three quarters of community pharmacists have experienced an increase in abuse from patients during the past year, The Pharmaceutical Journal’s 2021 salary and job satisfaction survey has revealed.

As part of the survey, 949 pharmacists working in a range of sectors were asked whether physical or verbal abuse by patients had increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the past year.

Overall, 422 pharmacists (44%) said they had experienced an increase in abuse from patients, while 163 (17%) said it had stayed the same.

A further 350 pharmacists (37%) said they had not experienced any abuse.

However, the survey revealed that community pharmacy saw the largest increase in abuse, with 295 out of 400 respondents (74%) reporting more abuse in the past year.

Some 70 community pharmacists (17.5%) said abuse levels had stayed the same and 28 (7%) said they had not experienced any abuse.

Compared with results from The Pharmaceutical Journal’s 2020 salary survey, reports of increased abuse in community pharmacy have grown by 17 percentage points.

In 2020, 57% of community pharmacists (256) told The Pharmaceutical Journal that physical or verbal abuse by patients had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting on the survey, Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “The results of this survey are alarming as pharmacy teams are an important and valued part of every community, and are there to help patients and the public. It is therefore vital that they are able to do this safely and not feel threatened or in danger while at work.

“Any sort of abuse is unacceptable and we are here to offer support for our members. We have previously been in conversation with the police, during the pandemic, and they would ask pharmacists to report abuse. We will continue to speak to the NHS, government, patient groups, the police and people across the profession, so that pharmacists and their teams can look after patients safely.”

The reported increase in abuse follows the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords in September 2021, which would make assaulting or abusing a retail worker a specific offence, if passed into law.

In July 2021, pharmacy multiples Boots and Well called on the prime minister to support amendments to the bill, which they said would provide better protection from violence and abuse for their employees.

As a result of increased violence in its pharmacies, Boots began providing body cameras to its employees — including pharmacy staff — working in 60 stores from early 2021.

In April 2020, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association published survey results showing that more than 90% of 1,200 respondents had witnessed abusive or aggressive incidents in their pharmacies during the preceding month.

It also revealed that 80% of respondents thought that abusive or aggressive incidents had increased in the month before the survey was published, compared with normal levels.

READ MORE: COVID-19: I was punched by an angry patient in my frontline pharmacy on Good Friday

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.109872

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