Pharmacists in England face abuse from patients due to drug shortages | Health

Pharmacy staff in England are facing growing abuse and aggression from patients frustrated that drug shortages mean they cannot get their usual medications, a survey reveals.

The hostility, including swearing and spitting, comes as availability of medicines is becoming more uncertain as a result of Brexit, the Covid pandemic and ingredient supply problems. Hormone replacement therapy drugs are in short supply in many places, affecting women undergoing menopause, for example.

Half of pharmacists and counter staff say the unpredictability is causing problems for customers managing their health, according to research by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents community pharmacies in England.

Two-thirds of pharmacies say they are dealing with shortages every day and another 21% encounter them several times a week.

The PSNC’s survey of 1,132 staff from and 418 bosses of 5,000 pharmacies found:

  • 75% of pharmacies have seen patients turn aggressive when told they cannot have the medication they have been prescribed.

  • 49% of staff say patient abuse is undermining their mental wellbeing.

  • 51% believe supply chain issues affect patients every day.

“It is really worrying to hear that pharmacy staff are so routinely facing aggression from patients,” said Janet Morrison, the PSNC’s chief executive. “Pharmacists tell us anecdotally that this can include verbal abuse, swearing, spitting and threatening to report staff to regulators.

“Many community pharmacies are having to deal with medicine supply issues on a daily basis. This adds pressures on to already busy pharmacy teams and can also be worrying for patients if they have to wait longer for the medicines that they need.”

Patients were left “frustrated and inconvenienced” by drug shortages, she added.

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Supply problems can lead to pharmacists giving patients only part of the medication they are due and having to ask them to come back for the rest later, or asking GPs to prescribe the patient a different drug, or ringing other suppliers to see if they have stocks available.

The shortages are adding to the pressure on pharmacies, which have played a key part in the rollout of Covid vaccines but are now being affected by staff sickness and growing staff shortages.

Lack of staff is such a challenge that pharmacies are increasingly having to close temporarily, usually for a few hours at a time, the PSNC found. That in turn puts extra strain on nearby GP surgeries and NHS walk-in centres from patients who cannot get medical treatment at the pharmacy.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There is zero tolerance of violence or abuse directed at healthcare staff who have devoted so much to protect patients during the pandemic and deserve to work in a safe and secure environment free from assault or harassment.

“The department has well established procedures to deal with medicine shortages and works closely with the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS to minimise disruption on the few occasions they arise.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/apr/25/pharmacists-in-england-face-abuse-from-patients-due-to-drug-shortages