Cambridge Road is looking more and more like the dying days of the Soviet Union due to the long queue outside Boots pharmacy. For the safety of staff and customers, only two people are allowed in the shop at any time and opening times have been restricted to just two hours twice a day. Even in normal times, the pharmacy is far too small to cope with demand and is over-crowded. In the context of a global health emergency, the circumstances are untenable, if not a danger to public health.

While the independent pharmacy can process prescriptions on the same day, it has to do this offsite at its sister shop in Streatham with medicines delivered by courier and as a result customers have to come back later to collect their prescriptions.

The situation highlights the lack of pharmacy provision in Stansted and surrounding villages. The NHS has repeatedly refused to grant a pharmacy licence to the chemists at Castle Maltings next to Stansted Surgery, despite campaigns and appeals by local residents and the parish council over recent years.

Two years ago NHS Resolution dismissed an appeal by chemist proprietor Professor Ash Soni, who is a former president of the the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, against the refusal to grant him a dispensing licence at Castle Maltings. The NHS claims that the small Boots chemist is sufficient for Stansted and surrounding villages, but in doing so it is protecting the Boots monopoly from an independent pharmacy run by a very respected pharmacist.

Since January 2018, demand has climbed as the population has grown and the Covid-19 pandemic has tipped the community into crisis with regards pharmacy provision.

Yet, even in a situation of crisis where capacity constraints are becoming a severe problem, the NHS stated this week that it will delay Stansted’s pharmaceutical needs assessment due to the pandemic. Prof Soni’s business is well placed to step in and assist the community through the crisis and reducing the burden on Boot’s small premises, but the NHS has refused to see sense.

Yesterday, I wrote to our local MP Kemi Badenoch to ask for urgent intervention to give the Castle Maltings chemists a dispensing licence, even if temporary ahead of the now-delayed pharmaceutical needs assessment. In the current crisis, the NHS or the Health Secretary can remove unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles and apply some common sense with one stroke of a pen. It now comes down to willpower by the authorities.

Take Action!

Write to the following, asking for a rapid approval of a dispensing licence for Castle Maltings chemists – even just on a temporary ahead of the pharmaceutical needs assessment:

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