Council group set up to address dwindling pharmacy provision in Northumberland after closures and hours reductions

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Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee agreed on Wednesday to set up a task and finish group to address pharmacy closures in the county.

Cramlington’s 100-hour pharmacy within Sainsbury’s has closed as part of nationwide cuts, while uncertainty currently surrounds Haydon Bridge Pharmacy in Hexham after it went into administration.

Anne Everdene, the pharmacy consultant to the council’s public health team, explained that, while it was a nationwide problem, the situation in Northumberland is exacerbated by the county’s rural nature.

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Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, she said: “This is a fast-moving agenda. It is happening throughout the country and it is not just a Northumberland issue.

Pharmacies across Northumberland are closing or reducing their hours. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)Pharmacies across Northumberland are closing or reducing their hours. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Pharmacies across Northumberland are closing or reducing their hours. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

"It is affecting every single area in the country.

Lloyds have closed all of their pharmacies nationwide in Sainsbury’s and sold off all their other remaining businesses. They are getting out after a £66m loss.

Boots have also notified the government that they are closing 300 stores, and Northumberland is affected. There is a store in Blyth closing and one of the two in Prudhoe is closing.

“We have also heard that Tesco have reduced the hours at Hexham and Berwick.

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“With our rural areas I think we could be badly hit. When there are only one or two pharmacies in a village, that could cause problems in the future.”

Mrs Everdene said that community pharmacies were facing an “appalling financial situation”, adding that 100-hour pharmacies “don’t make any money.”

As a result, businesses with 100-hour contracts have been allowed to reduce their hours to 70 by NHS England.

This has left Northumberland with just one 100-hour pharmacy.

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The meeting’s chairman, Cllr Richard Dodd, said a task and finish group needed to be set up by the committee.

He said: “This is a problem that is going to creep towards us all the time. We have got to get to somewhere that serves the people of Northumberland.

“What that model will look like, I do not know, but it is being modelled for us by finance.

"The supermarkets tried to push out everybody else so they would be the only show in town and now they are trying to offload.”

The committee unanimously agreed to set up the task and finish group.