A NATIONAL shortage of pharmacists has hit Peebles, a meeting heard.
On Friday (July 22), the High Street branch of chemist Boots was closed until 2pm.
And a notice on the door stated that the closure was due to the unavailability of a pharmacist.
You could see staff working inside and it wasn’t just the prescription department that was closed but the whole store.
For many months Boots closed for an hour at noon.
At the July meeting of the Peebles and District Community Council, Secretary Anne Snoddy said: ‘There are concerns about Boots and they have not replied to my first email.
“It was closed all day on Saturday (July 9), without notice, whether on Facebook or at the door and it is also closed at lunchtime.
“I was wondering if this was a permanent problem or if it was short term?”
Tweeddale West Councilor Drummond Begg, who is also a GP, added: “The key issue is the lack of community pharmacists nationwide.”
Boots is owned by an American healthcare giant, Walgreen Boots Alliance, and on its UK careers website there are at least 69 pharmacy vacancies across Scotland, including one in Peebles.
At Galashiels, there are two vacancies at its Gala Water Park branch, for a full-time, relief pharmacist.
Nationally, the company has more than 800 vacancies for pharmacists and 2,860 vacancies for all job types.
A Boots spokesperson said: ‘Like other pharmacies, we are having issues with pharmacist resources.
“Our teams are working hard to keep stores open, minimize disruption to customers and provide the best possible service.
“Sometimes, rather than closing a pharmacy for a day, we change our opening hours.”
Dr Begg added: “One thing that would help with efficiency would be to introduce an electronic prescription service.
“Both are Scottish Government issues.”
PCC chairman Les Turnbull said it was quite worrying that the pharmacy was not working well and asked Ms Snoddy to email Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame.
In a comment to the Peeblesshire News, Ms Grahame said: ‘I am aware of concerns about this and subsequently my office responded to Ms Snoddy last week.
“On the substance of the matter, in terms of opening hours and availability, pharmacies have a contract with the NHS Board to provide services, so if the local community wishes, I am happy to write to NHS Borders to raise this issue.
“Electronic Prescription Transfer (ETP) already exists in Scotland, although it is not available in all settings as it depends on the GP practice and local pharmacies wishing to do so – it is similar to the situation in England.
“However, there will be patients at the borders who will use this type of system now.
“Again, if there is a specific concern about this, I am happy to raise it if contacted by constituents about this.
“I hope Boots will now engage with the local community to address some of these concerns.”
The Boots spokesperson said: “We apologize to the customers who have been impacted and thank them for supporting us and being kind to our team members at this time.”
The meeting was also briefed on an update on the town’s Lloyds Pharmacy.
On June 17, the Peeblesshire News reported that an 83-year-old woman had been forced to wait four hours at the pharmacy.
At a recent meeting of the Peebles and District Community Council, its secretary, Anne Snoddy, said: “Lloyds has confirmed that the problems were due to the introduction of a new IT system.
“Their regional manager has been alerted to our concerns and is supporting the pharmacy team to ensure an optimal level of service can be achieved again.
“As of this writing things have improved, they are not perfect but are getting better.”