'Critical point' for pharmacy provision in Blyth after Boots closures, according to public health official

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The closure of two Boots branches in Blyth has left a major gap in pharmacy provision, Northumberland County Council’s health and well-being board has declared.

There is particular concern about the availability of service in the Newsham area. There is a higher-than-average number of older people there, as well is families who do not have English as a first language.

Newsham is also considered a deprived area, and there is concern some residents will find it difficult to travel to the town centre to use a pharmacy. It is part of a national issue that is seeing eight pharmacies a week close their doors for good.

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Anne Everdene, the pharmacy consultant to the council’s public health team, explained the situation in Northumberland. Speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the health and well-being board, she said: “We have been hit by several pharmacy closures and we have chosen not to declare that it has got to a critical point, until this particular point.

The branch of Boots on Plessey Road in Blyth is set to close this month. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)The branch of Boots on Plessey Road in Blyth is set to close this month. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
The branch of Boots on Plessey Road in Blyth is set to close this month. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Blyth as a community is already disadvantaged. There used to be five branches of Boots in Blyth, but over the past several years there has been a drive by Boots to cut their stores where there is duplication.

“The board needs to consider whether we still have sufficient pharmacies there to provide all the services we need from pharmacies.”

There is already extra strain on pharmacy workloads thanks to a government drive that urges people to visit their pharmacy before going to the GP or an A&E department, in a bid to relive pressure on the NHS.

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As well as filling prescriptions, data showed that the pharmacies closing in Blyth also delivered significant numbers of flu vaccines as well as the supervision of opiates.

The council is now looking for a new applicant to run a pharmacy in the Newsham area for six days a week. Mrs Everdene said the council would work with the region’s Integrated Care Board to ensure the offer would be “enough” to entice someone into working in the area.

She added: “There is a financially viable business there. It is just not what Boots want, it does not have a big enough profit margin for them.”