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Pharmacy teams on 'high alert' amid spike in patient aggression

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Pharmacy teams on 'high alert' amid spike in patient aggression

Pharmacy team resources are being drained by a rise in patient aggression and the resulting need to be on “high alert,” Community Pharmacy Scotland has said.

Speaking to Pharmacy Network News earlier today ahead of a BBC Scotland report on this issue, CPS policy and development pharmacist Adam Osprey said there has been a “definite general increase in aggressive behaviour”.

He said that in recent months this abuse has been sparked by a number of factors, such as lateral flow test supply levels, prescription lead times and some frustrated patients “ping-ponging about the system”.

Of those patients who encounter issues such as cancelled operations or struggling to get a GP appointment, he commented: “It’s understandable that by the time they get to the pharmacy they can be really quite peeved.”

And staff shortages have led to longer turnaround times for prescriptions, he said, with the usual 48-hour turnaround extending to three or even five days in some circumstances.

He commented: “When people don’t understand how the system works [they take out frustration on] the people at the end of the chain, which is really unfortunate.”

“The accessibility of pharmacy is our biggest strength but it opens teams up to a bit of vulnerability,” he told PNN

While the overwhelming majority of cases have involved verbal abuse, he said there have been some instances where Covid screens at the pharmacy counter may have prevented physical aggression “because people couldn’t get at the pharmacy team”. Some contractors have had to employ a security guard, he added.

“Teams help these patients as far as they can,” Mr Osprey said, stressing that only a small minority of patients cause problems.

“Someone said to me the other day that they are always on high alert; they get emails and texts from the public, it’s not all the time but it saps their energy and almost takes them away from that patient care activity.”

Mr Osprey summed up his message to the public: “We’re health professionals and we’re part of the NHS in a very similar way to GP practices. 

“Everyone is trying their best to help and support people as they always do.”

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