Action on ‘unacceptably long’ pharmacy queues welcomed

Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams has welcomed assurances by Swansea Bay University Health Board that it is taking action on concerns raised by residents regarding pharmacy services in Pontardawe, but repeated her calls for a third pharmacy to be opened in the town as “a key part of the answer”.

selections of pill packets

During a meeting last week with the Chief Executive and Chair of the Health Board to get an update on promised action on these concerns, Sioned Williams pointed to the “unacceptably long queues” in the town’s pharmacies, with patients sometimes having long waits to collect their medication and often patients having to return to collect some items on their prescriptions later or the following day.

In response, the Health Board acknowledged that there were specific issues regarding long waiting times at pharmacies in Pontardawe, mainly related to local staffing issues as well as a general increase in demand for services,  but assured the MS that they are working closely with the community pharmacists and GP practice to address these issues.

South Wales West MS Sioned Williams said:

“I met with the Health Board to again highlight the unacceptably long queues that we’re still seeing in local pharmacies in Pontardawe and also issues around the availability of some medications. 

“I have previously raised the exact same concerns with both the Health Board and the Welsh Government on many occasions. It’s unfair to expect elderly or disabled patients in particular to wait in a queue for their prescription for what can end up being an hour or even longer and then told that their medication isn’t available.

“The Health Board told me that they were working to address what they described to me as operational problems locally; they also said that the launch of digital prescriptions, as an optional alternative to paper prescriptions, planned across Wales from Summer 2023 will further reduce pressures on the pharmacies and shorten queues.

“I reiterated my calls for a third pharmacy in Pontardawe as a key part of the answer to this and offered to work constructively with the Health Board to look again at this issue to ensure that local residents have adequate access to pharmacy services.”

The meeting follows years of campaigning by Sioned Williams, Plaid Cymru and local residents for a third pharmacy in Pontardawe to deal with increased demand.

An application to open an additional pharmacy was submitted in November 2020, however, this application was turned down by the health board in September 2021.

Shortly afterwards, an appeal was submitted and supported by Plaid Cymru elected representatives, GPs, and many residents across the affected communities. The appeal highlighted three years’ worth of complaints and the use of an incorrect map to determine population needs. The appeal was rejected by the Welsh Government despite recognition of several flaws in the Health Board’s reasons for refusal and accepting some of the arguments put forward by the community in favour of an additional pharmacy to serve it.

Sioned Williams wrote a letter to the Health Minister in October contesting the decision to reject the appeal. She also brought the issue to the attention of the First Minister, where she asked the Welsh Government to explain why they were "obstructing constituents and GPs’ plea for better pharmacy services".

Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash

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