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Pharmacists in England face abuse from patients due to drug shortages

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.

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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Source: The Guardian, 25 April 2022


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