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  • Writer's pictureDan Heley

Campaigners argue Boots closure risks patient safety

The closure of Weston-super-Mare's only pharmacy situated on the Bournville estate has ignited concerns regarding the community's safety.

The impending closure has drawn attention to the indispensable services provided by the pharmacy, including opiate substitution therapy and emergency contraception for teenagers.

Jeremy Blatchford of the Avon Local Councils’ Association voiced apprehensions, stating, "If we don’t have a pharmacy here — to put it bluntly — people are going to die." This sentiment underscores the gravity of the situation, especially considering that a quarter of the ward's population grapple with limiting long-term illnesses or disabilities, and a third lack access to transportation.

The nearest alternative, the Monkton Avenue Boots pharmacy on the Oldmixon estate, is a 23-minute walk away. However, it's capacity inhibits its ability to absorb the influx of patients from the Bournville estate.

Mark Graham of the For All Healthy Living Centre described the predicament as "horrific scary situation." With 44% of Horizon GP practice's patients relying on the Bournville pharmacy for prescriptions, the closure presents a significant disruption to healthcare access.

The closure also imperils vulnerable demographics, such as those in need of opiate substitution therapy and clean needles for injecting drug users. The discontinuation of services could lead to reduced engagement with treatment and safer injection practices, intensifying health risks.

Efforts to mitigate the closure's impact include an application for a new pharmacy and appeals to NHS England for prompt approval.

Members on the health and wellbeing board resolved to write to NHS England in support of the application for a new pharmacy, urging it to be approved quickly.

They also voted to update the area’s pharmaceutical needs assessment — the document NHS England will use to guide their decision on whether the pharmacy should open — to make clear the need for a pharmacy on the Bournville estate.

Daniel Aldridge, who launched the original campaign to keep the pharmacy open and is standing to be selected as the Labour parliamentary candidate for Weston-super-Mare, said; "It's fantastic that it looks like the Bournville will get a replacement pharmacy, thanks to everyone who has pushed for this.The possible gap in service to the community between Boots closing and a new service opening is, however, unacceptable.The local community has significant underlying health and wellbeing needs that will be compromised by this period of uncertainty and stalled access to basic healthcare."

"For example, for the 17 people currently getting opiate substitution therapy at Boots, any interruption is going to hugely complicate their lives and the lives of around them. People who depend on this service need to know immediately what's happening. I'm sure a solution to maintain services to our most vulnerable will be found; rules and regulations can't be used as an excuse not to expedite a process that is literally life-saving."

Catherine Gibbons, deputy leader of North Somerset Council, affirmed the councils commitment to averting a gap in healthcare provision, underscoring the council's collaborative efforts with NHS England to find solutions. She said: “I and the rest of the council are working as hard as possible to ensure there is not a gap in provision if at all possible.”



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