Anger at hospital pharmacy closure

A PENSIONERS' representative said last night that plans to close a hospital's pharmacy would cause major problems for elderly people.Tony Constable, liaison officer for Colchester pensioners' Action Group, said that the closure of the pharmacy unit at Essex County Hospital (ECH) would particularly hit those who were elderly and immobile.

By Roddy Ashworth

A PENSIONERS' representative said last night that plans to close a hospital's pharmacy would cause major problems for elderly people.

Tony Constable, liaison officer for Colchester pensioners' Action Group, said that the closure of the pharmacy unit at Essex County Hospital (ECH) would particularly hit those who were elderly and immobile.

Mr Constable made his comments after Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS Trust said it was to close its dispensing pharmacy at the hospital and focus its staff's attentions on acutely ill patients there and at its sister facility, Colchester General Hospital.


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Dr Richard Needle , chief pharmacist at Essex Rivers, said the dispensary at ECH would close on Friday, March 30.

“Dispensing for outpatients is only a small part of the hospital pharmacy service's work,” he said.

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“The trend across the NHS in recent years has been for pharmacy staff to be more directly involved in inpatient care and the closure of the dispensary at ECH will enable us to step up this activity.

“Many of the services that were provided from the pharmacy there have already been moved successfully to the pharmacy at Colchester General Hospital.

“For example, the two wards at ECH have for many years received their pharmaceutical supplies from Colchester General Hospital at weekends and bank holidays when the dispensary is closed.

“Clinical pharmacy staff will continue to support patients and staff at ECH.”

He said that outpatients there would either be given a prescription to take to a community pharmacy - of which there are two within 200 metres of the hospital and which have longer opening hours than the ECH dispensary- or be given pre-labelled medicines with accompanying information at their clinic.

Dr Needle made a feasibility study to investigate whether it is practical to close the dispensary at ECH.

He said the plan was discussed with a wide range of groups, including consultants and other hospital staff, the Patient and Public Involvement Forum affiliated to Essex Rivers Healthcare and North East Essex Primary Care Trust. He added the decision will be reviewed after six months.

But Mr Constable said that older people would be most affected by the change. “People going to hospital already have health problems, and they don't want more difficulties,” he said.

“If they have got a car that is one thing, but many pensioners don't and if you are not very mobile and don't have your own transport it is yet another delay.”

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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