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Staff isolation leaves elderly and sick patients stood in queues for prescriptions for more than an hour

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Elderly patients are being forced to stand in queues for more than an hour to pick up their prescriptions as a Diss pharmacy struggles to cope with the number of staff members in self-isolation.

‘Distressing’ scenes at Well Pharmacy have seen patients cramped in non-socially distanced queues in the blistering hot weather as the few staff members on hand try to manage the volume of customers coming in.

Helaine Clare has visited the pharmacy, in Mere Street, on two occasions this week to pick up a repeat prescription of adrenaline, having given up the first time and having to wait more than an hour on her return.

Well Pharmacy in Diss. Picture by Mecha Morton.
Well Pharmacy in Diss. Picture by Mecha Morton.

The 75-year-old, who has osteoporosis, said there were no social distancing measures in place, while some patients were becoming aggressive as they waited to be seen to.

“It was quite distressing,” she said. “There was a woman on two sticks, who had been in a car accident, waiting for penicillin, and you could see she was in quite a lot of distress.

“And people in the queue were getting quite aggressive: when people are sick they don’t want to keep fighting.

“Other people were getting inpatient because they were on their lunch hour.

“I was standing – there’s no way to sit down, and it’s quite a small shop.

“Then you begin to worry that people might have Covid. Nobody was social distancing, and you don’t know if people are infectious or not.”

The grandmother-of-three, of Fair Green, said the employees at the pharmacy were working tooth and nail to see as many patients as possible, but were unable to meet the growing demand.

“When I finally got there, the assistant was really apologetic,” she said. “But it’s not the fault of the people working there, because they are working as hard as they possibly can.

“The women behind the counter were working flat out, but they just couldn’t keep up with the number of people coming in.”

In a statement, Well Pharmacy explained that the reason for the extremely long waiting times, which have only begun within the past two weeks, was due to staff being asked to self-isolate.

A spokesman said: “The community pharmacy sector as a whole is currently facing challenges as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A number of our pharmacists and pharmacy team members across the region have been required to self-isolate at short notice for the safety of our patients, colleagues and the wider community, which has had a knock-on effect on staffing levels across our pharmacies.”

The spokesman promised that the situation would improve soon.

He added: “With the introduction of isolation mitigation for front-line NHS and social care staff, which includes community pharmacies, we are confident we will safely be able to bring colleagues back to work to help alleviate pressure on our pharmacy teams, and enable us to return to providing vital medication and healthcare advice to the high standards our patients have come to expect.”

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