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More pharmacists in Devon needed, says Tory council leader

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More pharmacists in Devon needed, says Tory council leader

By Neil Trainis

The Conservative leader of Devon County Council John Hart has warned his area needs more pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to cope with increasing patient demand as the size of its population grows and pharmacies contend with staff shortages. 

Writing in the North Devon Gazette today, he said there was a 14 per cent vacancy rate in pharmacies in the South-West compared with eight per cent across England and called for the creation of a pharmacy school in Devon so it can develop its “own specialists” and “promote the profession to our young people.” The closest pharmacy school, he said, was in Bristol.

Hart, whose deputy Council leader James McInnes jointly chairs One Devon which has taken on responsibility for commissioning local pharmaceutical services from NHS England, also revealed a recent review of local pharmacy services by his Council’s health scrutiny committee found pharmacies were “under extreme pressure” because of poor funding, inflationary pressures and “a growing lack of staff.”

He said many people in Devon experienced “disruption to their local pharmacy services last summer” and endured unplanned pharmacy closures, long queues and delays picking up their repeat prescriptions.

“The rural, sparsely-populated nature of much of our county obviously presents a real challenge to delivering all services, not only health and care services, particularly if it is exacerbated by staff shortages,” he wrote, revealing Devon’s 224 pharmacy contractors serve 814,440 residents, a quarter of whom have a long-term condition while many over-60s have two or more.

Hart insisted his Council will support a campaign to educate the public about the best health setting to go to for a particular problem and called for the “level and appropriateness” of NHS 111 referrals to be improved.

“Nationally, some 58 million informal healthcare consultations are provided by pharmacists and their teams every year and in Devon that equates to around 19 per pharmacy per day,” he wrote.

“Over half these patients said they would have visited their doctor if the chemist hadn't been there and that would only have added more pressure to GP practices.”

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