Time to crack down on abusive patients

Opinion

Time to crack down on abusive patients

By Richard Thomas, editor, Pharmacy Magazine

Pharmacy bodies, employers and the NHS need to do more to protect the workplace for pharmacists and their teams.

As we emerge tentatively from one epidemic, another continues to rage. Abuse and violence directed at pharmacy teams has reached unprecedented levels, damaging morale of exhausted staff and pushing stress levels through the ceiling. It is another reason why pharmacists are leaving the sector in droves, some for the comfier confines of primary care and GP practice, others preferring to work – well, anywhere rather than community pharmacy. Everyone is at breaking point.

Let’s not beat about the bush here. The behaviour of too many patients, caught up in today’s self-absorbed “I want it now” culture and a misplaced sense of their own entitlement, was getting noticeably worse even before Covid. Rudeness rules the roost. As someone remarked on Twitter, people are happy to wait for an hour in Nandos, yet get their M&S pants in a twist if their prescription isn’t ready the moment they walk through the door.

It is hard to know the true extent of the problem as most low-level verbal abuse goes unreported but we receive anecdotal accounts of petulant patients on an almost daily basis. And when a company like Boots starts giving bodycams and panic alarms to its shop floor staff to deal with abusive and violent customers, you know things have reached crisis proportions.

So what can be done to tackle the problem? Greater public understanding of the challenges pharmacy teams face – such as staff shortages due to the funding cuts and the sheer volume and complexity of the workload pharmacies have to deal with these days – could help.

The Government needs to beef up its NHS violence prevention strategy and bring pharmacy fully into the fold. And our professional bodies and employers need to follow the lead of the PDA and join forces to send out a clear and unequivocal message about zero tolerance to any form of abuse. Enough is enough.

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