Ash Parish Council (APC) has challenged Lloyds Pharmacy, following the report of issues raised to the Council by parishioners. For many weeks, residents have been severely impacted by the lack of a full-time Pharmacist at Lloyds Chemist. This issue has been felt so acutely because this is the only Pharmacy in Ash. As some patients have their prescriptions sent directly to the Pharmacy, it is particularly frustrating when it is unexpectedly closed. As drugs cannot be dispensed unless a Pharmacist is present, a patient can be left without their medicine and no guarantee of when they may collect it.
Local Council challenges Pharmacy chain
Hearing these concerns, counsellors present at the recent APC meeting collated their combined views and asked that the chairman writes to those responsible. In his letters, Cllr Manning complained to the pharmacy chain that “The service provided at this branch has in recent years slowly deteriorated “ and that the “inability to access an adequate service is causing a great deal of anguish and upset in the village”.
Lloyds Pharmacy has responded to the Council’s letter stating “We understand that the current situation is inconvenient for our customers, and we apologise for the difficulties this has caused”. Lloyds Pharmacy went on to explain that the reason for these issues is that “key full-time members of staff working at the branch left the organisation, and whilst we have been recruiting the new team, we have been relying on locums to cover the shortfall”.
Lloyds Pharmacy also cited that this issue is not unique to Ash as the “shortage of pharmacists and qualified support staff” is a “UK wide issue”. This is evidenced by the role of pharmacists being added to the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List.
Cllr Manning has since raised the issue of a lack of pharmacists with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and said that the “current level of pharmacy care being provided in both the Parishes of Ash and neighbouring Tongham is wholly inadequate”. In the letter he stressed that the population of Ash and Tongham is expanding with “planning permission has already been granted for an additional 1800 plus dwellings”.
The pharmacy is not open as usual
The Pharmacy is now operating on a reduced opening schedule, but it is also prone to unannounced closures. Residents have also reported to Ash Parish News that they had waited in line for over an hour, only to be told at the door that the Chemist must close at 5 pm and they will be denied their prescription. This has led to altercations from customers who had waited in the heat for hours.
Lloyds Pharmacy has recently responded by deploying a security guard but has thus far failed to find a full-time Pharmacist to meet the needs of the community. Various issues at this pharmacy have persisted over many years with long pharmacy ques, however, the recent developments are unprecedented. Many residents are now speculating why such a large population is so poorly serviced with only one Pharmacy.
Why Ash & Tongham needs more Pharmacies
The NHS is currently advocating that residents should visit their local pharmacist first for minor health issues to relieve pressure on the NHS. Ash has been identified as an area of social deprivation, with many elderly and vulnerable residents. These residents in particular may have no other means and cannot visit Pharmacists in the neighbouring county, some miles away.
Whilst some may comment that there are pharmacies within 3 miles (Northcamp & Northtown). They must also consider the cost-of-living crisis and the increasing cost of fuel. With this in mind, such a flippant remark is particularly galling as travelling into Hampshire is simply not an option for all. At a national level, the government’s agenda is for people to have less reliance on cars and to walk or use more environmentally modes of transport to access local facilities. In Ash, there are commercial units currently vacant and a strong requirement for additional pharmacies.
Who regulates Pharmacies?
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) are an organisation which regulates pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the United Kingdom. They set standards, hold a register, quality assure education and investigate complaints. Trained Pharmisits who wish to open a new Pharmacy must also apply to the GPhC before they may operate, and may be refused.
Residents on social media have encouraged customers to report a concern to the GPhC to highlight the issue of a lack of pharmacies in operation within Ash. The GPhC has yet to comment publicly on this matter.
What is the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS)
The EPS allows prescribers to send prescriptions electronically to a dispenser (such as a pharmacy) of the patient’s choice. This makes the prescribing and dispensing process more efficient and convenient for patients and staff. The benefits of EPS are that:
- prescribers can process prescriptions more efficiently and spend less time dealing with prescription queries
- dispensers can reduce the use of paper, have improved stock control, and provide a more efficient service to patients
- patients can collect repeat prescriptions from a pharmacy without visiting their GP, and won’t have a paper prescription to lose
- patients can go into any pharmacy with their NHS number and get their prescription filled
To find out about the benefits of EPS visit https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/prescriptions-and-pharmacies/electronic-prescriptions