The Ulster Chemists’ Association (UCA) – the organisation, which promotes community pharmacy across Northern Ireland – has strongly condemned the attack on two of its members in West Belfast yesterday morning.

The two men were stabbed at McDonagh’s Pharmacy on the Falls Road by a man, who entered the premises carrying a knife.

‘The news that two of our colleagues have been attacked in such a horrific way has caused deep concern among the public in general and within community pharmacy in particular,’ says UCA President, Cliff McElhinney.

‘This vicious attack highlights the vulnerability of community pharmacists today and reinforces the reasons why so many of us are working under ever-increasing pressure.

‘As pharmacists, we work within our communities to deliver a quality service to our patients. The fact that we are patient facing and working in such an easily-accessible way means, however, that we are the most at risk of any healthcare professionals.

‘By working in this way, we have increasingly had to become more adept at diffusing confrontation in our pharmacies when patients become distressed – or more commonly – angry about their prescription medication.

‘The increase in the number of prescriptions being issued for drugs that are most open to abuse simply adds to the growing problem, and more often than not, it is the pharmacist, who is left at the front line trying to resolve the issue.

‘The UCA is receiving more and more accounts of the violence and aggression that are being experienced by pharmacists and their staff members across Northern Ireland. Today’s incident is not the first of its kind and we know for certain that it will not be the last. We are alarmed, however, not only by the severity of this attack on our colleagues, but by the escalation in the level of violence.

‘Violence against any healthcare workers – regardless of their location – is totally unacceptable, and the UCA will be talking to the Department of Health and the PSNI about ways to ensure the safety of our community pharmacists and their staff. Thankfully both of our colleagues are safe and now recovering in hospital, but the time has come to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the future.’

The Health & Social Care Board, local GPs and neighbouring pharmacies are currently working to put arrangements in place to provide an uninterrupted service for McDonagh Pharmacy’s patients.

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