13-14 OCTOBER 2024

PDA highlights increasing levels of violence and abuse in community pharmacy

PDA highlights increasing levels of violence and abuse in community pharmacy

It's been reported that 85% of pharmacists have said that they, or a colleague has experienced abuse whilst at work.

The PDA has responded to concerns that many of its members working in community pharmacy do not feel safe in their workplace due to increasing levels of violence and abuse. The PDA is once again calling for adequate risk assessments and preventative safety measures to be put in place, as well as a zero-tolerance approach to be taken when incidents occur.

The results of the PDA's 2021 Safer Pharmacies Survey demonstrated the scale of the problem, with only 2 in 10 pharmacists reporting that they feel safe all of the time that they are at work. With several significant and worrying incidents involving PDA members, including a pharmacist being threatened with a knife, further research was conducted in April 2022 to establish the extent and impact. The research found that;

  • 44% of respondents report that they, or someone that they work with has experienced physical or violent abuse in the last month.
  • 85% of pharmacists responding to the survey said that they, or someone they work with has experienced verbal or racial abuse in the last month.
  • 89% of pharmacists said that the number of incidents has increased in the last year.
  • 38% have had to log a police report in relation to physical violence or abuse, property damage, or theft.

The main reasons for the number of incidents occurring included inadequate staffing levels, frustration from patients around the time taken to dispense their prescriptions, and some cases of medicines being unavailable.

Alison Jones, Director of Policy at the PDA said,

'People are understandably anxious about their health or that of those that they care for and are visiting pharmacies more as they are an accessible and convenient way to seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

However, there are necessary and regulated checks which need to take place with every prescription item that is dispensed to make sure that the medicines are safe and appropriate for the individual. This important safety net means that it can take a little time for patients to wait in the pharmacy and this is often where flash points can occur.'

Data from Health Education England's (HEE) pharmacy workforce survey for 2021 demonstrates that there has been a significant reduction in staff working in community pharmacy in recent years. There has been a drop in the number of support staff since 2017 of a staggering 14% on a full-time equivalent basis, even though since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 31% of people are more likely to visit a pharmacy first before seeking help elsewhere.

Alison continued, 'Pharmacists and pharmacy teams need to feel safe in their workplace and there is no excuse for them to be subjected to the violence and abuse that we are hearing about from our members.

The PDA continues to call for pharmacy businesses to adopt the Safer Pharmacies Charter, which includes a commitment around a zero-tolerance approach to violence and abuse, and for teams to be appropriately protected from the often-daily threats that they are experiencing through the provision of appropriate staffing levels and security measures such as panic alarms and CCTV.'

Some members have told the PDA that they are anxious about going to work and do not feel supported by their management, resulting in them looking to work elsewhere. Recently the PDA also responded to claims around the pharmacist workforce, however, two-thirds of members do not believe that there is a shortage of pharmacists, and that poor working conditions, including the levels of violent and abusive behaviour that they experience is impacting on recruitment and retention in the sector.

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