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‘Please Help Merrow Before Somebody Dies’ Writes Resident to MP

Published on: 20 Jan, 2024
Updated on: 23 Jan, 2024

The Boots pharmacy on Epsom Road where 45-minute queues for prescriptions are now reported to be the norm. Google Street View

By Martin Giles

Merrow residents requiring medication are now facing queues of 45 minutes to an hour following the closure of the Boots pharmacy in Kingfisher Drive, Merrow. Since the closure, the other Merrow Boots branch, on the Epsom Road, has been struggling to cope with the resulting extra demand on them.

See interview with Angela Richardson below (apologies for poor sound quality).

Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson, is receiving an increasing number of messages complaining about the situation and has written to the acting chief executive of NHS Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Board (ICB) asking for an “urgent response”.

The closure of the Boots pharmacy, in Kingfisher Drive, Merrow Park, which was conveniently located by a Doctors’ surgery, has led to overwhelming demand at the Epsom Road branch – Google Street View

The MP has also written to the public affairs director of Boots asking what action the company is taking to alleviate the widely predicted problem of inadequate capacity at the Boots pharmacy on Epsom Road, following the closure of the Kingfisher Road branch.

Angela Richardson’s letter to NHS Surrey Heartlands.

In both her letters Ms Richardson  quoted messages from residents affected:

  • “It [the Epsom Road branch] is woefully short of space to deal with the recent surge of customers and wait times are up to 2-3 hrs irrespective of what time you arrive. Queues loop round the whole shop blocking anyone who wishes to purchase anything”
  • “I was just about in tears when I spoke to a lady who could hardly walk… please help Merrow before someone dies”
  • “We entered Boots at 11.20 and spoke to a member of staff at 12.20… People queuing for an hour in an unwholesome atmosphere, many of them elderly; people having to queue again to pick up drugs not available the first time; staff having to cope with a never-ending queue of people in what is probably a germ-filled atmosphere; drugs not readily available for dispensing”
  • “The Epsom Road pharmacy is now totally unable to cope as Kingfisher Drive Boots has now closed. My husband who is 84 has a prescription to pick up but has been twice and [with] the queue so long [he was] unable to wait as he cannot stand for long… The situation for local people is, however, untenable and needs to be looked at urgently.”

In November, following the announcement of the Boots closure of its Merrow Park pharmacy and the predicted consequences (See: Merrow and Burpham Will Be Left with Inadequate Local Pharmacy Services) Ms Richardson met Marc Donovan, Boots’ Healthcare Development and Public Affairs director, and other senior managers, to discuss the issue.

She asked how the decision to close the pharmacy had been assessed and was told that the pharmacy had been operating at a loss and the lease had already expired.

Then on December 18, the MP met Marc Donovan OBE again. After witnessing long queues at the Epsom Road pharmacy, adaptations and layout changes were agreed. Mr Donovan also committed to sharing with Ms Richardson the running costs of both pharmacies.

But the changes have not yet been made and the MP said: “My concern is that, given they are struggling to meet demand at the moment, how can they afford any closure time to reconfigure?”

She has asked NHS acting CEO Karen McDowell for another urgent meeting to help the ICB understand the profound inadequacy of the pharmaceutical provision and that a solution is needed as soon as possible. She has also asked Boots to confirm, as a priority, the actions that it is taking to improve the current provision at the Epsom Road branch “to ensure the pharmacy is fit for purpose”.

Cllr George Potter

Commenting on the situation, County Cllr George Potter (Lib Dem, Guildford East) said: “There is strong local concern about the closure. Nearly a thousand people signed the petition against the closure which was started by the local Lib Dem councillors.

The only pharmacy now serving Burpham and Merrow is the one on Epsom Road which is hard to access by public transport and has queues out the door due to the lack of floor space.

“We are still lobbying Boots about ensuring local need is properly met despite the closure, but ultimately this is a national problem. Our community is one of many suffering from the Conservative government’s failure to adequately fund pharmacy services.”

And Dragon reader Ian Blyth wrote in to say: “Sadly, the intervention from Angela [Richardson] had no effect, and the Merrow Park pharmacy is now closed.

“This, following the recent closure of the Sainsbury’s pharmacy, leaves us with one chemist to service a huge residential area. The shop is tiny, and on my two recent visits, the queues have been out of the door, with waits of up to 45 minutes on both occasions.

“The staff are marvellous, but clearly under pressure, and whilst the customers that I shared the queues with were patient, and understanding, I am sure that this won’t always be the case.”

Please listen to the interview with Angela Richardson…

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Responses to ‘Please Help Merrow Before Somebody Dies’ Writes Resident to MP

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 20, 2024 at 6:06 pm

    Ironic considering Boots recent advert containing the words ‘WITH YOU FOR LIFE’

    The problems were predictable as the sun setting at the end of day!

    Now a 4 mile round trip if the prescription is ready 8 Mile if not as they don’t answer the phone! They want you to move to Internet and home delivery. With no real comeback if its wrong!

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    January 20, 2024 at 8:16 pm

    I’m very pleased that someone has at least acknowledged that the staff are marvellous! Jennifer Sherriff and her team have provided an excellent service to the residents of Merrow for all the many years that she’s been at that pharmacy.

    And for those opining the closure of the Merrow Park pharmacy they seem to have forgotten the many times that it was closed due to no pharmacist/staff being available and the Epsom Road branch was having to pick up the slack then too.

  3. Graham Hibbert Reply

    January 22, 2024 at 10:25 am

    I very much support the comment by Wayne Smith where he says that Jenny and the staff at the pharmacy have provided excellent service in the past and do their best the deal with the increased demand now.

    I compliment them for remaining cheerful whilst coping with inadequate working facilities and frustrated customers.

    Boots’ management has done nothing in the past months to ease the pressure on their staff and provide a better service to their customers. It is disgraceful.

  4. Peter Mills Reply

    January 22, 2024 at 11:22 am

    Shock horror – company wants to make a profit. The government/NHS allows a company whose first duty is to maximise shareholder value, to fulfil prescriptions.

    Why is anyone surprised that it needs to shut down a non-profitable store? The subsequent problems are not the fault of Boots – they don’t care about us – they care about their shareholders.

    Angela Richardson says a PLC needs to take a longer-term view. Does she understand how PLCs work? it’s about quarterly driven results.

    Our Conservative government awards contracts to companies and does not make adequate provision for policing their actions.

  5. Martin Elliott Reply

    January 22, 2024 at 5:10 pm

    I use the Boots Branch in Stoughton Road, and submit repeat prescriptions using the NHS App to St Lukes GP Surgery.

    The time to process seems to have significantly increased from a usual 2 days (yes it says allow 3 days) to more common 4-5 days.

    Even the GP manager informed me it can take three days for a GP approval.

    More importantly, I was told at the pharmacy that the prescriptions are now made up across several branches locally and assembled at the designated branch.

    So if there are issues on availability of pharmacy services, one should examine the whole system from the GP prescribing medication (on screen or paper) to the final pick up. It’s a lot more involved than individual branches.

    Yet nobody in these long articles and comments has even mentioned that?

    There are also prescription collection/delivery services offered to home addresses.

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