Pharmacists are asking the public to be “patient and considerate” when using their services following increased demand caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Guidance issued by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) says that providers are under “enormous pressure” amid an unprecedented need for advice and medicines.
Reports of rude and aggressive behaviour towards pharmacy staff are “totally unacceptable”, it added.
The association, which represents independent community pharmacy professionals, revealed a spike in workload for pharmacists during the Covid-19 oubtreak.
A survey of more than 1,000 members found that demand for prescription medicines jumped by a third in March, while home deliveries have more than doubled – with some pharmacies reporting an increase of 300%.
In response to the increased demand, the NPA is asking patients to “help your pharmacy help you”.
In advice issued on Friday, the association calls on pharmacy users to be “patient and considerate” with staff who are “having to meet high demand for advice and medicines”.
It asks for understanding from patients that some pharmacies are operating with different opening hours to clean throughout the day, or get through a backlog of prescriptions.
The NPA is urging the public not to stockpile and only buy medicines that they and their family need “right now”, while recommending that regular prescriptions are ordered about a week in advance to avoid running out of current supply.
Those who have symptoms associated with Covid-19, or are living with someone who does, are asked not to go into a pharmacy – instead, they should ask someone who is well and outside of their household to collect medicines.
The association says that as pharmacies need to prioritise the most vulnerable, the public should only request medicines to be delivered if they have no other option. It adds that not all pharmacies operate a delivery service.
It is also asking the public to thank their local pharmacy teams – both in person and online using the hashtag #pharmacyheroes.
Chief executive Mark Lyonette said: “Pharmacies are here for you in this crisis – but their stamina and resources aren’t inexhaustible.
“We want to thank the public for their understanding and for helping us to continue to do our vital work on the health service front line.
“The behaviour of that small minority of people who have been rude or aggressive to pharmacy staff is totally unacceptable and makes it even harder for pharmacies to do their vital work.”
The survey of 1,000 NPA members, carried out between March 30 and April 3, found that the number of prescriptions dispensed rose by between 25% and 35% from February to March.
Phone calls to pharmacies more than tripled in this period, analysis found.
All providers reported a big increase in working hours, with some requiring the hiring of locum staff to meet workload, while many pharmacies said they had experienced long queues.