Published: 13:55, 25 November 2020
| Updated: 13:57, 25 November 2020
Six pharmacies will close their doors in Kent this year.
And more are expected to shut in 2021 as pharmaceutical firms face financial losses brought on by coronavirus and potential prescription shortages caused by Brexit.
It has emerged that four have shut in the county since January, including ones in Canterbury, Gillingham and Ramsgate. They include Lloyds Pharmacy and Graham Phillips. Two more will close next month in Rainham and Folkestone.
Shilpa Shah, who oversees the running of all of the county's chemists, around 335 in total, said: “We are losing pharmacies all the time and this puts a lot of pressure on communities, especially in our rural areas.”
Her comments were made during a virtual meeting of Kent County Council's health scrutiny as councillors warned reforms will be needed to keep the industry in tact.
Cllr David Brazier (Con), of Sevenoaks rural north east, said: "This is immensely frustrating and it is very clear a complete overhaul of the system is completely necessary.”
Pharmacies are privately-owned companies that are licensed to prepare and distribute drugs and medicines to patients, with around 90% of their supply contracts agreed with the NHS.
However, dozens of chemists feel they have been unfairly treated during the pandemic as they seek fair recognition for the services they have provided. Ms Shsa said the overworked Kent staff have "low morale".
Concerns where also raised about problems over pay for workers. This coulddrive people away from the industry.
Ms Shah, chief executive of the Kent and Medway pharmaceutical committee, said: "Unfortunately we can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
"Every day I am getting pharmacists phoning me and trying to talk to me to see what we can do to help them release their pressure.
“We are doing as much as we can nationally, but ultimately it is the patients on the ground that may suffer as a result of this and that is what we are trying to stop.”
Ongoing issues include paracetamol stockpiling, older people struggling to access "electronic prescriptions" and a lack of clear communication with GPs.
Meanwhile, Brexit is forecast to put more pressure on chemists as traffic disruption could affect goods arriving to them on time.
Yesterday, a panel of county councillors pledged to engage with Kent MPs to raise the key issues in Parliament and call for more support from the NHS.
Dover Cllr Pauline Beresford (Con) said: “This is an invaluable service.
"Staff are getting a bit of abuse from people who can’t get their drugs and have a shortage of supplies.
"It does happen with lots of people wanting the same tablets and pharmacies can’t ship them in quick enough, but it’s not the fault of the chemist.”
Romney Marsh Cllr Tony Hills (Con) added: "Our pharmacies are superb and have been a lifeline for our communities."
The committee will receive a further update next year.