Services delivered by South Tyneside’s network of community pharmacies is just what the doctor ordered, according to new study.
The inquiry into the future of chemists gave the service a clean bill of health – finding that the borough’s almost 150,00 residents had ‘excellent’ access to them.
With 36 pharmacies, care cover is better on average than the rest of the country – a scenario likely until at least 2021.
Statistics show most towns and cities have 21 outlets for every 100,000 people, but in South Tyneside it jumps to 24.
The report also found that even a projected increase in population will not impact on service levels for another three years at the earliest.
By then a new Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) - carried out by South Tyneside Health and Wellbeing Board and supported by South Tyneside Council, will be due.
The latest report does recommend some provision be monitored - including the availability of the emergency contraception - and says the ability of pharmacies to play a greater role in the delivery health and wellbeing priorities, should also be examined.
Coun Rob Dix, chairman of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating and Call In Committee, said: “Pharmacies play a vital role in the health care system.
“They are trusted health professionals delivering a range of care in local communities. There is increasing focus on the use of pharmacies for minor ailments to help ease the pressure on GP surgeries and A&E departments.
“With the addition of new developments in the borough and associated impact on local populations, it is important we make sure there is adequate cover now and in the coming years.”
The assessment found 72% of respondents said they could access services within a 10-minute walk, and 99% are just a four-minute drive away.
East Shields and Whitburn had the lowest ratio of pharmacies in South Tyneside, at 12.4 per 100,000 people.
Forty-two per cent of people quizzed indicated they accessed their pharmacy by foot, 50 per cent by car or taxi, and the remainder by public transport.
Only five per cent of those surveyed said it was difficult to use public transport to access their primary pharmacy.
Responses by pharmacists showed many were keen to provide more services.
The assessment is now subject to public consultation which runs until January 26.
The draft PNA can be found at www.southtyneside.gov.uk/pna.