Please be patient and polite when visiting pharmacies

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, is calling for residents to be patient and polite when visiting their local pharmacy, in the face of shocking stories of pharmacists across the UK being verbally abused and threatened by customers.

Community pharmacies are currently experiencing unprecedented demand for their services and safety measures to protect staff and customers from Covid-19 has meant, in some cases, there have been long delays and shortages of stock.

Unfortunately, according to the pharmacist’s union the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, this has led to pharmacists and their staff experiencing verbal abuse and threats from customers.

Jeff Cuthbert said: “While I appreciate that people are anxious and worried about getting their medication, the stories I have heard from the pharmacy community in Gwent are unacceptable.

“Right now community pharmacists are part of the front-line defence against Covid-19. They are essential part of the health service, giving help and advice, while also trying to do their day job and provide medicines and services to residents.

“I have fed my concerns back to the Chief Constable of Gwent Police and asked that neighbourhood policing teams make visits to local pharmacies as part of their daily patrols.

“No one should have to put up with abuse and threatening behaviour in the line of their professional duty. We are all in this together and the situation is unlikely to change for many weeks. Please show tolerance, patience and understanding when visiting your local pharmacy.”

His comments follow a statement from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales which has expressed concern for its members.

Helen Lewis, Regional Official for the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, and a locum pharmacist in Caerphilly, said: “The demand for pharmacy services across the UK at the moment is huge and we have never experienced anything like it before. We understand that this can be frustrating for our patients but the behaviour being experienced by pharmacists across the country right now is simply appalling.

“Fortunately, most of our patients are understanding but I myself have been verbally abused and threatened, and I know that every one of my colleagues will have a similar story.

“Even with the safety measures in place, pharmacists are putting themselves and their families at risk of catching Covid-19 every day. So please, help us to help you by treating us with respect.”

Chief Constable of Gwent Police, Pam Kelly, said: “This is a time for the community in Gwent to come together but behaviour like this only threatens to draw us apart and it will not be tolerated.

“I am asking neighbourhood officers to visit their local pharmacies wherever possible and offer their support but I sincerely hope this does not need to become a policing issue, and people can return to treating each other with courtesy and respect.”