A TOWN will have to go without a pharmacy on a bank holiday for the first time in almost 30 years.
The pharmacy in Bala will be closed this Bank Holiday Monday after Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board changed its funding of pharmacy opening hours.
Rota payments have been provided in the past to ensure that people in rural areas have access to pharmacies during Bank Holidays.
The payments do not apply to rural pharmacies that are near to large supermarkets as they can provide a pharmacy service during Bank Holidays.
The closure will mean that people in Bala will have to travel to Barmouth, if they need a pharmacy, a round trip of 60 miles.
There was concern that the closure would put a strain on the health service.
Bala pharmacist Sion Llewelyn said: “We don’t take much money on a bank holiday but we do provide an important service.
“I have been here for 29 years and we have been open on every single summer Bank Holiday.
“I am concerned that people will call the out of hours service and clog the line with problems that could be solved locally.
“These are people that are in desperate need of their medication.
“We have been telling people that we are closed, but the message will not get to everyone.”
Further concerns were raised about the future of health services in the area.
Llanuwchllyn councillor Alan Jones Evans said: “What I’m afraid of is that this could lead to further cuts.
“We’re used to the chemist being open in Bala and when the surgery is closed, the chemists acts as a safety net so on Monday that safety net will be missing.
“It’s the height of the summer and the town’s population doubles.
“Going to Barmouth is not an option - that’s no cover at all.
“It’s just too far and at this time of year the roads will be jam packed.
“The pharmacy in Bala provides an excellent service and it’s a full time service and it needs to be.
“When people start to get old or ill they do forget to get their tablets and we get a wonderful personal service in Bala that people depend on.”
He added: “We are concerned that people will not be aware that there won’t be pharmacy services in Bala this Bank Holiday weekend.
“I feel very angry about this.
“I have spoken to one of the town councillors and asked that it be brought up at the next council meeting.”
A spokesperson for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “The pharmacy rota payment system was used to get pharmacies to open for an hour on Sundays and Bank Holidays so that patients were able to get urgent prescriptions dispensed. However the North Wales GP out of hours service now carries an expanded medicine stock, meaning that most patients can be provided with the medicines that have been prescribed for them immediately, without the need to seek out an open local pharmacy.
“Pharmacies can still choose to open outside of NHS rota hours if they so wish, and the health board has received confirmation from 23 pharmacies across the North Wales region that they will be open all day on the Bank Holiday Monday.
“It was therefore decided that the costs of implementing the rota system could not be justified as the existing arrangements will enable patients to obtain their prescribed medicines locally.”
See full story in the Free Press