A town's only remaining chemist is having to close at times because it does not have a pharmacist.

And it is just one of many pharmacies suffering from a shortage of staff, according to Oxfordshire's independent health and social care watchdog.

Lloyds Pharmacy in Burford Road, Carterton, put a message on the door on May 31 saying it could not "perform any services booked in or hand out prescriptions".

One user of a neighbourhood website Next Door said they had checked with the doctor's surgery: "I was told it was for one day only due to Lloyds, Carterton, not having a pharmacist on the day the notice was put up, so not to worry....(the surgery's words, not mine)."

The announcement caused concern on social media.

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One poster said: "This is awful state for people who rely on this pharmacy."

Another commented: "Is Lloyds "sorry" or actually Very Sorry? "Sorry" is hardly a sincere word - - shortages of staff or not. Do Lloyds ever really think about their customers for whom medication is a necessity? Come on now!"


A third said: "I visited Lloyds pharmacies in Newbury and Abingdon on the way home trying to get my medication - both closed, no pharmacist. This is what happens when you put private sector in charge of essential services. I suspect underinvestment and underpaying of staff and poor working conditions probably causing them to leave profits over providing a service, medication is not something you have choice over."

Lack of staff is such a challenge that pharmacies are increasingly having to close temporarily, usually for a few hours at a time, community pharmacy bodies have found.

They have claimed the sector is “facing a critical shortage” of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians that could endanger patients’ access to health services.

The shortages are adding to the pressure on staff who have played a key part in the rollout of Covid vaccines.

Professional bodies the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), National Pharmacy Association, Company Chemists’ Association and Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies say it is important the situation is addressed as soon as possible.

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Rosalind Pearce, executive director at Healthwatch Oxfordshire, said: “We have heard from a few people recently about issues accessing the Lloyds Pharmacy in Carterton, and indeed from people experiencing problems accessing pharmacies across the county.

“This is a concern to us, and in response to this we carried out a countywide survey asking people about their recent experiences of using pharmacies. We will be reporting on what we heard next month."

She added: "We have also been in contact with Lloyds to let them know about some of the recent challenges people have had using their pharmacies.

“In the meantime, anyone who has difficulties accessing their local pharmacy is encouraged to contact us at Healthwatch Oxfordshire. People can get in touch by emailing hello@healthwatchoxfordshire.co.uk or calling 01865 520520.”

Lloyds Pharmacy and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) were both contacted for comment.