STAFF at a Bolton-based community pharmacy chain say that they have endured "abusive" patients and are "close to breaking point" as they deal with ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Many pharmacy teams around the town and Greater Manchester are facing growing pressures on their workforce, as increasing numbers of staff self-isolate after showing symptoms of the Covid-19 infection, or protect themselves from risk.

They are also dealing with a significantly increased volume of patient queries, and requests for non-urgent medicines, support and advice.

To meet with demand for services, retired pharmacists and other people with relevant qualifications are also volunteering to help out around the clock.

To make matters worse, staff at Manor Pharmacies, which is based in St Helens Road, say they have become the unfortunate victims of attacks from patients.

Manor Pharmacy staff Muhammed Patel and Dionne Taylor said: “We have unfortunately endured some abusive patients who have deeply upset the pharmacy team.

“Like you, our teams are seriously concerned about the pandemic and the impact on them, their family and are working under extremely challenging and difficult circumstances, please respect them.

“We have had some kind patients bring in chocolates and coffee to keep us going, however. A small ‘thank you’ and appreciation makes all the difference as we are working hard to support the NHS and the local community.”

However, despite the growing pressures, the region's pharmacies have said they will continue to open during the pandemic ­— but are asking for the public's help.

The Greater Manchester Pharmaceutical Committee has issued advice to ensure pharmacies can continue their vital work.

Patients with symptoms of coronavirus ­— such as a fever or a new, continuous cough ­— are asked to stay at home and follow Government guidance.

Those self-isolating should ask a friend, relative or neighbour to collect medicines. People should not order repeat prescriptions early or stockpile, but should give pharmacies an extra few days to prepare regular medicines.

For advice people should call the NHS 111 line. They should also follow social distancing guidelines by staying two-metres apart.

To protect patients and the staff most pharmacies will not allow any waiting, so people may be asked to call back later.

Aneet Kapoor, chair of the committee, said that work was being done to match up pharmacy students from Manchester University who are prepared to help out in community pharmacies most in need of help.

He added: “Community pharmacy is under extreme pressure at the moment and we are working hard to put measures in place to support pharmacies where we can.

“We are providing 2 metre high, impactful banners for pharmacies to display warning people with symptoms of coronavirus not to enter pharmacies.

“We continue to liaise with the Greater Manchester and national pharmacy organisations and NHS to ensure there is additional support for community pharmacy at this difficult time.”