Lister Hospital out-of-hours GP service criticised

A SICK woman who had to drive 14 miles for medication has criticised the provision of out-of-hours pharmacies in North Herts and Stevenage.

Suffering from shingles - an infection of a nerve, Mary Aldis used the out-of-hours GP service at Lister Hospital in Stevenage and was given a prescription for acyclovir.

It was after 4pm on a Sunday and the hospital’s pharmacy - which is only open at certain times of the week to outpatients - was closed.

Mrs Aldis, a Stevenage resident, said the closest pharmacy open at that time was in Luton. “Luton is 14 miles away, and I was in a lot of pain because shingles is like somebody sticking pins in you,” she explained.

She said she left Lister at about 5pm and finally got home at 7.10pm, because Luton was so congested.

“I think people should be aware they could come across this problem,” said Mrs Aldis.

“I think it’s terrible - it could be a frantic mother with a child.”

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In Comet country, there are no out-of-hours pharmacies on a Sunday, and the latest opening time on a Saturday is 10pm – at Sainsbury’s in Letchworth GC and Asda in Stevenage.

These two supermarket pharmacies also provide the latest opening times on weekdays – 11pm.

A spokesman for NHS Hertfordshire said: “The pharmacy at Lister operates from 9am to 5pm during the week and provides a limited dispensing service on Saturday and Sunday.

“When this hospital pharmacy is closed, A&E teams have access to a limited stock of certain medications for patients whose treatment needs to begin immediately. The medication prescribed for Mrs Aldis was not available from this stock.

“Mrs Aldis’ condition, although uncomfortable, was not serious enough to require immediate and urgent treatment. A&E staff would have given her advice on how to manage her symptoms during the night and recommended she go to her nearest pharmacy the following morning.

“NHS Hertfordshire is reviewing how patients’ access to urgent medicines can be improved.

“Inevitably, late night pharmacies can’t be provided on everyone’s doorstep so it may be the case that some people have a little further to travel.”