Boots employees — including pharmacy staff — working in 60 stores have been given body cameras to wear as a measure against the “increasing problem” of abuse from customers, the multiple has said.
The body cameras were first piloted in early 2021 in “a small number” of stores in Birmingham, with the scheme later rolled out to further stores in Sheffield and Rotherham.
A spokesperson for Boots told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the pilot began following concerns “about the increasing problem of violence and abuse experienced by hundreds of thousands of retail workers, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The body cameras worn by staff do not record continuously. Instead, staff “turn the body cam on if they are experiencing a difficult interaction with a member of the public, who they inform of the body cam’s recording”, the spokesperson explained.
“Used in this way, we have found the body cams hugely successful in de-escalating issues as they arise, and our team members say they feel safer and more confident when wearing them.”
If a Boots employee experiences an incident with an abusive customer, they can log it so that it can then be matched with footage from the store’s CCTV and the employee’s body cam.
Both recordings help the multiple to work with the police to arrest and prosecute people who are violent or abusive towards staff, Boots said.
Boots, in addition to Well Pharmacy and more than 100 chief executives of UK retailers, wrote a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson on 2 July 2021, calling on him to support amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which they said will provide better protection from violence and abuse for their employees.
The letter quoted a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium, which “shows a 7% year-on-year increase in incidents of violence and abuse in 2019 — 455 cases each day”.
“We are doing all we can to tackle this problem, and together we have invested £1.2bn in crime prevention measures in the last year,” the letter said.
“This includes a wide range of additional protections, with some companies supplying body-worn cameras and employing more security guards.”
In April 2020, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association published survey results that showed 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 past month, compared with normal levels.