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No to a Second Ash Pharmacy – Despite Long Queues at Lloyds

Published on: 2 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 2 Aug, 2022

Customers queuing outside Lloyds Pharmacy in Wharf Road, Ash

By David Reading

An application to open a second pharmacy in Ash has been rejected by NHS England despite the long queues for prescriptions at the existing Lloyds Pharmacy.

Along with pharmacies across the country, Lloyds in Wharf Road is suffering from a serious staffing crisis leading to a deterioration in the service customers receive. At present Lloyds is without a full-time pharmacist.

Mr Ally Premji wants to open an additional pharmacy between Ash Station and Pinewood Stores in Guildford Road and he is at present appealing against NHS England’s decision.

He is campaigning for support from Ash residents through social media and leaflets handed out in the village.

He said: “My intention is to be the pharmacist personally responsible for managing the day-to-day running of the pharmacy. In my absence, the store will be managed by my wife, who is also a pharmacist.”

After the problems at the Wharf Road pharmacy were raised by residents, Ash Parish Council took up the matter, issuing a challenge to Lloyds.

Cllr Nigel Manning

The council chairman, Cllr Nigel Manning, complained to the pharmacy chain that “the service provided at this branch has in recent years slowly deteriorated” leading to “a great deal of anguish and upset in the village”.

The problem is exacerbated by the huge rise in population in the Ash and Tongham area, following successful housing applications on numerous sites, notably the new estate south of Ash Lodge Drive. As more houses are completed and occupied, pressure on all local services can only increase.

One man waiting in a queue of 20 people at Lloyds said that on a previous occasion he faced a two-hour wait. Most people accept the situation calmly, although there is the occasional angry outburst.

Mr Premji said: “A second pharmacy is most definitely required in Ash as there is a growing population and nearly 1,500 new homes being built within the local area. The population of the Ash parish is around 18,000 and this population is being served by a single pharmacy. This pharmacy is severely struggling with long queues. We feel that there are patients who have difficulty obtaining pharmacy services they need when they need them.”

Mr Premji was told by NHS England that he had not provided enough evidence that there was a need for a second pharmacy. He said: “I am in the process of preparing a response with my solicitor.”

The problem at Lloyds is part of a national picture. The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) said that over the last five years an alarming shortfall of over 3,000 community pharmacists had developed in England. Pharmacies were struggling to recruit staff.

A spokesperson for the Lloyds chain said: “At the moment there is significant pressure on community pharmacies owing to the sector-wide workforce issues that are not unique to Lloyds. It is widely reported that these workforce issues are being felt across the NHS.

“Legally a pharmacist must be present in the pharmacy for it to open and to give patients their prescriptions. Therefore at times when a locum pharmacist can’t be sourced in times of sickness and absence our last resort is to temporarily close.

“We are actively recruiting for a full-time pharmacist and pharmacy technicians at our Ash Vale pharmacy but recruiting new pharmacists and pharmacy teams has become increasingly difficult. There is a shortage of pharmacists, and the profession is listed on the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List.

“Our priority is to provide the best possible service and care to our customers and patients. We apologise for the impact this has on the community and appreciate their understanding at this time. We are working together with other community pharmacy operators and the NHS to address the sector-wide workforce challenges.”

A spokesperson for NHS England in the South East, commenting on Mr Premji’s application, said: “The decision-making committee refused the application having assessed it against national criteria relating to choice, access and innovation and the evidence provided.

“The onus is on the applicant to provide evidence to support their application. They have the right to appeal this decision to NHS Resolution within 30 days.”

The committee concluded that there was already a reasonable choice in the general area with regard to obtaining pharmaceutical services. There was no evidence provided to demonstrate that people sharing a “protected characteristic” were having difficulties in accessing pharmaceutical services.

Protected characteristics include such things as age, disability, race and religion. There was also no evidence provided that innovative approaches would be taken by Mr Premji.

Cllr Pat Scott

Cllr Pat Scott, an Independent member of Ash Parish Council, said: “Many residents have been severely impacted by the lack of a full-time pharmacist at Lloyds. From a personal point of view I have intervened on at least two occasions to allow people queuing to be allowed access into the shop.

“I was horrified by the extremely lengthy queues.  I was also horrified to witness folk queuing in the extremely high temperatures we have recently experienced, and so have advised, via social media, that it is better to queue in the afternoon as the pavement outside the shop was at least in the shade.  I have heard so many complaints regarding this pharmacy from residents, it has almost been unbelievable.”

The CCA elaborated on the national picture, saying that part of the problem was that many community pharmacists were being recruited in primary care. The CCA said that in 2019 the NHS pledged to recruit 6,000 pharmacists to Primary Care Networks (PCNs) by 2024. Since then, around 2,400 community pharmacists had been recruited into PCNs, depleting the community pharmacist workforce. This had added significant pressure on pharmacists who choose to stay in community pharmacies.

The association said many more pharmacists were choosing to work part-time, in some cases because of exhaustion, and so now the sector required more pharmacists to help maintain the same level of services the public had come to expect during the pandemic.

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