Pharmacists in Sussex continue to report abusive behaviour

Yesterday (16 December) Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne visited a branch of Kamsons Pharmacy to talk to staff there about some of the issues they have faced during the pandemic.

According to the Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) patients across Sussex have been attempting to stockpile medicines leading to some shortages and increased demand. As a result, frustrations towards the healthcare sector have been at an all-time high.

The LPC across the South East have reported that pharmacists and other pharmacy staff are being sworn at and abused which Mrs Bourne says is ‘unacceptable behaviour that will not be tolerated.’

The staff at Kamsons Pharmacy told Mrs Bourne of the difficulties all pharmacies have faced during the pandemic. There have been high demands for pharmacy services and advice resulting in longer waiting times for prescriptions to be dispensed or to speak to a pharmacist.

All of this accompanied by the additional COVID safety restrictions in place have meant that some patients have become frustrated and made offensive gestures or acted aggressively, shouting at the counter staff.

The LPC are reminding people of how hard pharmacy teams are working to maintain the health services that local communities need, despite some staff becoming ill or needing to self-isolate.

Mark Donaghy, Chair of West Sussex LPC and a Senior Pharmacist at Kamsons Pharmacy said: “During lockdown one of our Brighton-based counter assistants was shouted at and nearly hit by a protective screen that was thumped down by a patient. Pharmacy teams have also reported patients getting angry and acting aggressively if prescriptions are delayed arriving at pharmacies. This kind of low-level crime, along with theft, is a common occurrence in community pharmacy that is not always reported to the Police.

“Joining the Safer Sussex Business Partnership and receiving a visit from Commissioner Bourne at Kamsons Pharmacy, Crawley, to understand the issues faced by community pharmacy will help to drive forward a change in approach and response to all criminal activity in community pharmacy – from recognising the very real, day-to-day, anti-social and criminal behaviour pharmacies experience, and ensuring a simple system of crime reporting for staff. Our NHS pharmacy teams work tirelessly on the community frontline and they deserve to be able to do their job safely and without fear.”

Just like many other local businesses across Sussex, pharmacies are struggling to report every crime that happens in their stores as the process currently takes too long. Through her Safer Sussex Business Partnership (SSBP), PCC Bourne is working with Sussex Police, local retailers, healthcare and other partners to find ways to reduce reporting times to allow more time for shop workers and pharmacists to do their job.

She says: “The abuse of frontline healthcare workers during a pandemic, when they are working incredibly hard to ensure we have the medication we need, is unacceptable.

“Continuing with my ‘Keeping Christmas Kind’ campaign message, I’m urging everyone to be patient, show respect and not take out any mounting frustrations on our frontline key workers.

“It is also clear that the police online reporting forms can be too time consuming for local businesses who have experienced multiple offences daily during this pandemic.

“This barrier means that the police currently may not have as clear a picture of business crime levels in the county as we would like and therefore may not always be deploying the most appropriate policing response.

“I want to make it as quick and easy as possible for those working in our local high streets to get help from the police. Moving forward, all police call handlers will be trained to flag business crimes and ensure that those who have been a victim of abuse are offered the right support.

“Working with Sussex Police, I will continue to make tackling business crime one of our top priorities next year.”