Swindon is under-served by community pharmacies, members of the council-run health and wellbeing board were told.

In a report, public health specialist Divya Bassi looked into the number of pharmacies in the area, following a number of complaints to the council about the difficulty residents were having finding a pharmacy.

Her report said: “Swindon has a total of 38 community pharmacies, equivalent to approximately 17 pharmacies per 100,000 population, compared to a national average of 21 per 100,000 and 19 in the South West.

"The difficulty is recruiting the right staff is a major issue for the Bath, Swindon & Wiltshire area. There are 72 vacancies for pharmacists, a quarter of the available spaces and this is the second highest in the country.

"For pharmacy technicians there are also high vacancy rates of 28 per cent ranking ninth out of 42 integrated care board areas."

Ms Bassi said: “Many of the issues for local pharmacies reflect the national picture.

“Core challenges both locally and nationally include an increase in demand for community pharmacy provision, medicine stock and supply, business continuity, staffing issues, including retention and wellbeing, potentially impacting on patient satisfaction and experiences of services locally.

“Local resident feedback indicates that community pharmacy services available to the public are generally felt to be fit for purpose and that most feel well supported by their community pharmacy although there are some concerns about medicine availability and communication.

“Pharmacies are seen locally to make a positive contribution to alleviating pressures on other parts of the health system and strive to ensure that services are accessible to all.”

The task and finish group, set up last autumn, has recommended that the health and wellbeing board attend a workshop with the group to discuss the findings and to promote the Pharmacy First scheme in Swindon.

This sees pharmacies providing advice and NHS-funded treatment for seven common conditions, and increased training for pharmacy staff, which Ms Bassi said could help with retaining staff at pharmacies.

Councillor Lawrence Elliott asked for the location of the 38 pharmacies currently operating in Swindon to be plotted on a map: “This might help us as councillors to see where the gaps are.”

In response to a question to a question from council leader Jim Robbins, who was chairing the meeting, Ms Bassi said a pharmacy had recently opened in Rodbourne and there had been two applications to open up in the Old Town Co-op where a pharmacy had recently closed.