Many people and families rely on their local pharmacies for over-the-counter everyday medicines, regular prescriptions and reassuring advice on a walk-in basis.
For those with especially busy or difficult lives, pharmacies are often the closest and most accessible place to get health advice. For those who may struggle to engage with appointment-only services, a chance pop-in can save lives. Our community pharmacies are a vital part of our local health services and our high streets.
The potential of community pharmacies to improve patient health and reduce the pressure on NHS hospitals and GPs is immense. With GP appointments scarce and other health services stretched beyond breaking point, it is more important than ever that the Government supports community pharmacies. The most recent local data available shows that, every month, pharmacies across North West Hampshire process around 124,000 prescriptions. In addition to this, in October last year, our community pharmacies carried out 1,678 flu vaccinations as well as a variety of other services.
But this local frontline health service has reached a point of critical pressure which puts patient support at risk of serious deterioration. We have all noticed the increase in waiting times to collect our prescriptions or see a pharmacist, yet the government wants to use them to further alleviate pressure on GP services. We have lost one out of 16 pharmacies since 2016, despite a significant ongoing increase in Andover’s population. Nationally, there have been a total of 666 pharmacy closures across England.
Fewer pharmacies mean poorer local services, and greater pressure on our NHS. If we are to make best use of pharmacies as part of a coherent NHS, we need to put them on a sustainable financial footing, building on the Pharmacy First approach in Scotland, and we also need to ensure that sufficient pharmacists are being trained.
Luigi Gregori. Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for North West Hampshire.