Pharmacies across Scotland see rise in abuse and aggressive behaviour during pandemic

Pharmacists across Scotland have reported an increase in abusive and aggressive behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic.

As pressure increases to deal with the virus, pharmacists are dealing with “unacceptable behaviour” towards members of staff, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland (RPS Scotland).

Chairman Jonathan Burton said: “I have been shocked to hear of pharmacy teams being verbally abused. I have also heard of fights starting outside pharmacy premises. This is totally unacceptable behaviour.”

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Pharmacies have become a critical medical resource within communities to help deal with the public health emergency.

Pharmacies across Scotland see rise in abuse and aggressive behaviour during pandemic

Mr Burton, who also works as a pharmacist in Stirling, added: “Community pharmacists and their teams are doing everything they possibly can to help in very difficult circumstances.

“They are under significant pressure and they need the help of the public so they can continue to provide vital healthcare support.

“I ask that anyone who needs to visit a pharmacy remains patient and is respectful to all pharmacy staff.”

RPS Scotland has taken its concerns to Police Scotland to make sure all pharmacy teams are kept safe.

Some pharmacies have also changed the way they are working to protect workers, which includes reduced opening hours and social distancing measures.

RPS Scotland asked patients and the public to adhere to the following advice:

- Do not visit a pharmacy if you or anyone in your household has a temperature or a new and continuous cough, even if it is mild.

- Plan ahead and try to order your next prescription seven days before it is due.

- If you are handing in your prescription, please add relevant contact details so that the community pharmacies can let you know when your medicines are ready.

- If you are self-isolating please ask family, friends or neighbours to pick up your medication for you. If this isn’t possible, ask your community pharmacy for advice about how they can help.

- If you are collecting medicines for someone take ID with you. Ensure you protect yourself and the patient by delivering the medicines safely and keeping a safe distance from each other.

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “We continue to support and protect the vulnerable, responding to incidents 24 hours a day. Our officers are in local communities, on routine patrols, engaging with people to urge them to follow the instructions from government.

“We don’t need people to defy what is clear and very, very sensible advice. These are unprecedented times and we will respond accordingly.

“Those breaking the law will be dealt with appropriately to ensure the public is kept safe from risk and harm.”

MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said it was “truly miserable” pharmacy staff were being abused.

He added: “Key workers are putting their lives on the line for us every day and keeping pharmacies open is essential. No-one should have to put up with abuse in their workplace, especially in such worrying circumstances.”

Pharmacies across Edinburgh are already under considerable pressure. Considered essential shops, most remain open to help customers with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many pharmacies are operating on reduced opening hours in line with government guidelines, and have experienced a similar problem of stockpiling, with people being encouraged to use home delivery options where possible.