AS community pharmacies join the UK's Covid-19 vaccination efforts this week, startling new analysis of NHS data has revealed that Reading is disadvantaged when it comes to access to pharmacies, and was named among the worst in the country.

Research from online pharmacy Medicine Direct revealed that Reading is the third worst when it comes to population and pharmacy access, with 150 such facilities in the town.

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The ‘Pharmacy Blackspots’ study reveals the towns and cities with the worst access based on the amount of residents currently served by each pharmacy in their area.

It found that there are 19.27 pharmacies per 100,000 people (5,189 people per pharmacy) in the town, meaning residents could face longer waiting times for a jab in the coming months.

Reading Chronicle: Research findingsResearch findings

Research by Medicine Direct

The findings also revealed there will be no physical pharmacies left on England’s high streets by January 2069, should the rate of recent closures and funding cuts continue in the years to come.

With pharmacies playing an integral role in the ongoing rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and with health secretary Matt Hancock suggesting noone in the UK will have to travel more than ten miles for their jab, these figures could have significant implications on the mass rollout of jabs in the coming months.

Salisbury is the location in which residents in England had the worst access to a pharmacy, where each physical location was found to serve approximately 5,956 people.

Those in Hereford (5,510 people per pharmacy) and Reading followed closely behind.

In contrast, parts of Central London had the best access to a pharmacy.

The research also found the total number of high street pharmacies in England has decreased by 26 each month over the last two years and also reveals that in England from January 2019 to November 2020 a total of 1,200 pharmacies closed with 614 opening, a net loss of 586 pharmacies.

Should this rate continue, it would mean all remaining physical pharmacies would close within many of our lifetimes - January 2069 - with half of all existing pharmacies set to close by 2046.

Just 16,794 pharmacies remain in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, at a time where the UK health service is being stretched to its greatest levels in living memory.

Commenting on the results, Jon Higham, managing director at Medicine Direct, said: "While the Covid-19 vaccines are a huge step in the right direction for recovering from the ongoing pandemic, administering it presents a logistical conundrum and pharmacies play an important role and the necessity of community pharmacies and dispensaries has been thrown into question once again.

"However, it’s clear that supply and demand for these services vary drastically across the country, which could eventually result in longer waiting times for a vaccine in certain locations.

"However, the reality remains that pharmacies have been on the decline across the country - in part due to what the government has referred to as clustering, where multiple pharmacies exist within a 10 minute walk of one another.

"Clustering was the driving force behind the decision to cut funding to the pharmacy sector, and the reason why funding isn’t set to increase again, if at all, until 2024.

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"Of course, rates of decline can flex and the Covid-19 pandemic may well bolster the industry.

"With that said, recent reports of Lloyds Pharmacy closing many of its branches suggest that, regardless of the pandemic, the stark finding that there could be no physical pharmacies left within our lifetime stands true."

For more information and view the full results of this research, visit the company's website.