As we keep being told, these are unprecedented times, and we should ‘Stay home and save lives.’ I have had Lupus for more than 20 years, and it mainly affects my lungs and my bowel, so although I’m not over 70, I have taken on government advice and have stayed home.
However, twice this week it has been necessary for both Glenys – who is 77 – and myself to put ourselves at risk. More of that later, in another post. This is all about Well Pharmacy in St Budeaux Square. Glenys’s grandson is 22, and has asthma. He can’t afford to be without his inhaler, but like most young people, he’s not very good at forward thinking, and many’s the time he’s borrowed a new inhaler from the neighbour until his own prescription is ready.
However, the neighbour is over 80, and is at risk because of his age and his asthma, so that’s not an option now. Grandson of Glenys was told that his prescription would be ready on Friday, so, on Friday afternoon, he headed off to queue for his inhaler, which by now was definitely needed.
He stood in the queue outside the chemist for almost an hour, only to be told his prescription was not ready, and he needed to come back in the morning! This was despite the fact that, after almost an hour of waiting in the cold, he could barely breathe, and said he really needed it. Now, Grandson of Glenys is not as good at standing his ground as we Guerilla Grannies are, so he just accepted that, and came home, knowing he was in for a sleepless night.
This morning, Glenys decided to go down and queue, rather than let him go and maybe get turned away again. I offered to go with her, to share the queueing, because neither of us would have been up to standing for over an hour. So I sent Glenys over to Lidl for socially distanced supplies while I joined the queue, which at 10.45 am stretched back to the Co-Op corner. There were probably around 12 – 15 people in front, all at least two metres apart.
I felt safe, because I was in what I call my ‘Vera Gear,’ since several friends said that, with my hat and scarf, I looked just like Vera Stanhope. That’s the popular ITV detective, played by Brenda Blethyn. As you do, I got chatting to the people in front and behind.
The lady in front was well in her 70s, and partially sighted, She’d queued the previous day for 45 minutes before closing, to drop off her prescription, only to be told ‘We can’t accept that from you now.’ She asked what she was supposed to do, as she needed medication for herself and her husband.
I had a job to believe what she told me, but someone else confirmed her story later. She was told to go into another pharmacy in town to get her prescription! That anyone working within health care could offer such advice, which flies in the face of government direction, is staggering in its arrogance. This poor lady was told to put herself and others in danger, to get essential medication.
And this sort of non-service is not just down to the Covid-19 outbreak. On more than one occasion, when I’ve been to collect my own medication after receiving a text message to say it’s ready, one or more items are not ready. And the last time I collected my prescription – two days after receiving the text message – it wasn’t even ready for collection, and I was told to return the next day, because ‘The surgery was late sending through the prescription.’ So why was I sent a message from the PHARMACY to say it was ready? That was a mistake, apparently.
But not the surgery’s mistake, because when I checked, this was not the first time this particular pharmacy had blamed the surgery for their incompetence. According to others in the queue who overheard me, I wasn’t on my own.
I hesitate to criticise anyone at all, let alone in these challenging times. I admire absolutely everyone in healthcare, retail or other essential services who are working hard to keep some sense of service and normality, while risking their own health, even their lives, for us.
However, the conduct of the staff in Well Pharmacy is at best negligent and disrespectful, and at worst downright dangerous. I did not need to ask for instances of inconsiderate behaviour, they came thick and fast. The second person to have been told to go into Plymouth was turned away, after queuing for almost an hour in the cold, on Friday, because they locked the door on the dot of 5.30 pm, with just three people waiting.
He came back on Saturday, only to be told they didn’t have the medication he needed! Then there was the lady who told me about her friend, whose two-year-old was also refused an inhaler. They were told to ‘Come back tomorrow, and call 111 if the child gets worse.’
In the first 25 minutes I was in the queue, just four people emerged from the pharmacy with their prescriptions. Another four – including the partially sighted lady in front of me – gave up and went home. It took almost an hour to be admitted to collect the vital inhaler for Grandson of Glenys. Yet there were three people working. So what on Earth is going on?
Another thing that seemed both pointless and heartless was that only one person was allowed inside the pharmacy at a time. This despite the fact that there is lots of room – and seats – inside, and the floor is marked out so people stand two metres apart. It was a nice warm morning, but there were elderly people in that queue who would have benefited from a seat indoors.
I will be sending a copy of this article to the local press, and to the head office of Well Pharmacy, and I urge anyone who has been in that queue in St Budeaux Square to do the same. At a time when we are all being urged to work together for the good of everyone, there is a distinct lack of kindness and compassion at this particular establishment. All is NOT well at Well Pharmacy, St Budeaux, and it’s time something was done about it.