Pharmacy Forum NI has spoken out against the recent spate of violent attacks on community pharmacy holdings in greater Belfast. Our sentiments have been shared and communicated also by colleagues from across the NI pharmacy stakeholder network as well as health and social care leaders including the Minister of Health Robin Swann MLA and NI Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Cathy Harrison.

The incidents occurred at two separate pharmacies in North Belfast on 8 February and 5 March and have been widely covered by the local, regional and industry press.

In a statement, Chair of Pharmacy Forum NI, Eamon O’Donnell said:

“Pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmacy staff in the community are critical lifelines to the vast number of patients and public they serve. Pharmacy Forum NI condemns any threat or act of violence that puts that lifeline at risk. 

If the past two years have shown anything, it’s that NI community pharmacies have gone above the call of duty to protect and preserve the health of those in need; they too have the right to feel safe and protected to continue their work.”

Pharmacy Forum NI recognises that violence and abusive behaviour is a live issue for many healthcare professionals with unfortunately increasing frequency during the pandemic. However, as the current financial pressures in society increase, pharmacies in the heart of communities could be an easy target for anti-social behaviour and crime.  

In summer 2021, representatives from Pharmacy Forum NI, CPNI, UCA Ltd., the NPA and the PDA met to discuss the issues around zero tolerance in pharmacies, in particular, violence and unacceptable behaviour from members of the public. Our aim is to collectively build on existing strategies and identify what else can be done to improve outcomes for all involved and work with all key stakeholders. This is a work in progress. 

We are all aware it is a complex multi-faceted issue which has been well documented when previous high-profile incidents have prompted welcome reviews and actions across stakeholder groups to protect pharmacy team members and the public alike and generally raise awareness. Pharmacy Forum NI believes a truly effective zero tolerance policy is required to address the issue for pharmacy teams, knowing especially that more widely, effective zero tolerance positively impacts:

  • Workforce retention and colleagues’ wellbeing
  • Attracting and recruiting into the pharmacy team and the image of Northern Ireland as a great place to work
  • Discriminatory behaviour and racial abuse
  • Appropriate management of problem individuals with potentially complex issues.

Pharmacy Forum NI will continue to keep membership updated on developments in this area of work. 

PASS & 24/7 Pharmacy Team support

A reminder that the Pharmacist Advice and Support Service (PASS) is available to help pharmacists, ex-pharmacists, their dependants and pre-registration trainees in times of need. Alongside, the 24/7 health and wellbeing support service is available to the entire pharmacy team until 31 March 2022.