I recently visited Goldenacre Pharmacy in Edinburgh. This was a very informative visit which showed me the important work that pharmacists do and the vital role they play in our communities. I know from casework brought to me by my constituents that many people in Lothian struggle to get a timely GP appointment and this can cause them a lot of stress and anxiety. Some are even worried that their GP could be missing signs of fatal illness and so fear they may have to go to A&E instead. I saw on my visit how pharmacists can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, which could hopefully ease some of the anxiety felt by patients waiting for GP appointments.
I also saw how pharmacies prepare for the potential spread of COVID-19, which is a major concern considering that winter is coming and we may also face pressures such as a spike in flu cases. However, the pharmacy seemed to be well-equipped and organised in preparation for this and stands ready to look after our communities, including the most vulnerable members of our society.
I also saw a very exciting piece of technology which has innovated the way the pharmacy runs. The pharmacy has invested in a robotic system which has automated the process of storing, managing and dispensing a high volume of prescriptions. Skilled and experienced workers crosscheck and validate the work of the robotic system.
However, I have been saddened to hear that the Lothian region has been hit by a number of temporary pharmacy closures. It is important that we work out this problem, so that pharmacies can remain open to provide these vital services for my constituents. I have written to Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, regarding pharmacies and look forward to his response.
During my visit, I learnt that Pharmacy First can help to take pressure off GP services and community pharmacists are there to help. Now more than ever, when waiting lists are high, A &E waiting times are long and it seems impossible for many to get a GP appointment, it is important that we do all we can to allow people to access pharmacy services. I will continue to support my constituents and their access to healthcare wherever possible.