Covid booster rollout: Warning after staff suffer abuse from 'angry' patients

More than 150 people were in the queue at the peak - the busiest day in the pharmacy's history.
Copyright: ITV News
Hundreds of people were waiting for a walk-in booster dose at Thurston Pharmacy on Tuesday. Credit: ITV News

Health staff have called for people waiting for their booster jabs to be respectful, amid reports that staff have been abused by angry and frustrated patients.

Many vaccination centres have seen long queues since the announcement on Sunday that the booster roll-out would be extended and accelerated, with the target of every adult in the UK being offered a jab by the new year.

At Thurston Pharmacy in Suffolk - where on Tuesday, more than 150 people were queuing in the car park for a booster - bosses said they had had to turn angry patients away if they were not yet eligible for their jab.

"People are quite panicky and quite stressed - and sometimes that makes people do funny things," said owner Jas Kaur Lali.

Walk-in booster doses are still available in Suffolk, though they have been suspended in neighbouring Norfolk Credit: ITV News

As well as dealing with the high demand for boosters and growing anxiety over the spread of the Omicron variant, pharmacy staff are also dealing with the usual increase in workload that comes over winter.

People are now being reminded to treat staff with respect - with health workers speaking out about the abuse they were subjected to when tensions were high previously.

"December is the busiest month in pharmacy, and now we have all the added pressure of all the Covid boosters. The pressure is quite intense. If people can be patient and kind that will help us to help you," said Dr Lali.

Thurston pharmacy owner Jas Kaur Lali, left, and technician Bethany Hutchinson Credit: ITV News

Bethany Hutchinson, a technician at the pharmacy, said she had felt like leaving the profession at one point because of abuse from "angry" patients.

Looking back to the early days of the pandemic, she said: "At one point it felt like people were clapping for us on the Thursday and then coming in to shout at us on the Friday."

At other times, staff said they had been told by angry patients they "would be responsible for their death".

The expansion of the vaccine rollout forms a key part of the government's plans to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, which includes the measures dubbed Plan B.

The measures – including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues – are expected to pass the Commons on Tuesday with the support of Labour, who back tighter controls.

However, a raft of MPs from the government's own benches are expected to rebel against the plans, leaving Boris Johnson facing the biggest rebellion of his time as prime minister.