PEOPLE living in Swindon are in a blackspot when it comes to access to pharmacies according to a new analysis.

A study of NHS data by online pharmacy Medicine Direct has revealed the areas of the UK with the worst access and Swindon is in fourth place.

The document has ranked towns and cities based on the number of people currently served by each pharmacy in their area.

And in Swindon and the surrounding SN postcode area there are 92 registered pharmacies, each responsible for 4,987 people.

Jon Higham managing director at Medicine Direct said: “The reality remains that pharmacies have been on the decline across the country - in part due to what the government has referred to as clustering, where multiple pharmacies exist within a 10-minute walk of one another.

Clustering was the driving force behind the decision to cut funding to the pharmacy sector, and the reason why funding isn’t set to increase again, if at all, until 2024.”

He added: “Of course, rates of decline can flex and the Covid-19 pandemic may well bolster the industry. With that said, recent reports of Lloyds Pharmacy closing many of its branches suggest that, regardless of the pandemic, the stark finding that there could be no physical pharmacies left within our lifetime stands true.”

The research also found the total number of high street pharmacies in England has decreased by 26 each month over the last two years and that in England from January 2019 to November 2020 a total of 1,200 pharmacies closed while 614 opened - a net loss of 586.

Plans to close Rowlands Pharmacy in Rodbourne and transfer services to a branch in Park Lane, reported in the Adver last month, have caused anger. Councillors said they had been inundated with complaints from elderly patients who feared they would struggle to reach it.

Should this rate continue, it could mean all remaining physical pharmacies closing within with 50 years and half of all existing pharmacies by 2046. Just 16,794 pharmacies remain in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland when the UK health service is being stretched to the highest levels in living memory. Data for Wales was not available for the study.

A spokesperson from NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “We are committed to supporting patients with the correct amount of pharmacy provision in Swindon and surrounding areas.”

“The Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment regularly reviews pharmacy provision and has concluded that there is adequate provision of pharmaceutical services in the area. Local pharmacies offer a range of daytime, evening, and weekend opening hours.”

“Swindon has three community pharmacies providing a 100-hour service, open seven days per week plus evenings. Any patients who find it difficult to get to their nearest pharmacy can ask their pharmacy about home delivery or can use a distance selling pharmacy.”