Cancer patient left in 'excruciating pain' as chemist shortage leaves him with without medication

  • ITV Meridian's Mike Pearse reports from Newbury.

A man from Newbury who is undergoing cancer treatment says he was left in excruciating pain for a whole weekend as he was unable to get his medication due to a lack of chemists in the area.

Matt Congerton from Thatcham says his wife queued for an hour and a half to try and collect his drugs, only to find there were none in stock.

"It's been horrendous," Matt said.

"I've been in excruciating pain - for one weekend I had no pain relief. My wife had been to several chemists to try and get my medication but she couldn't get it.

"There was no one to call, no-one to speak to."

Queues formed at one pharmacy in Thatcham, Berkshire on Friday. Credit: ITV Meridian

People living in Newbury say the town previously had six pharmacies but it's about to go down to two, leaving them concerned about a shortage of chemists in the area. 

Rising operational costs, staff shortages and reduced government financial support have been blamed, but it comes as more of us turn to pharmacies to ease pressure on GP services.

"The chemist themselves are absolutely amazing, and you can't fault them, but they are understaffed and it's just crazy," Matt added.

"Sometimes you go down to the chemist and there's 10, 20, 30 deep - people stood in all weathers just trying to get their medications.

"To find out you haven't got your medication, so you either have to come back the next day, or try and find another pharmacy."

Signs blaming staff shortages for the delays and long waits. Credit: ITV Meridian

"It's so sad," Matt said.

"I feel for the elderly as well, because nobody should be in pain.

"I also feel for the staff in the shops, because they do get a lot of abuse, and it's not their fault.

"They need to put more chemists in Thatcham, because we only have two now."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are carefully monitoring access to pharmaceutical services and about 80% of people live within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy.

“We have already announced £645 million in additional funding and thousands more training places for pharmacists as part of the Long Term Workforce Plan, on top of the £2.6 billion we provide every year to the sector.

“This will further support community pharmacies to supply prescription-only medicines for seven common conditions without the patient needing need to see a GP.”

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