THE closure of the only pharmacy in one of the most deprived areas of the country could put lives at risk if a new one does not open soon, it has been claimed.

Boots plans to close its pharmacy on the Bournville estate in Weston-super-Mare on February 24, despite a petition which has amassed almost 600 signatures.

The pharmacy provides vital opiate substitution therapy and a large amount of emergency contraception to teenagers.

An application to open a new pharmacy in the location has been submitted to NHS England but pharmacy applications can take months to be approved, promoting fears of a dangerous gap in provision.

At a meeting of North Somerset’s health and wellbeing board — which brings together local councillors, community figures, and health professionals — Jeremy Blatchford of the Avon Local Councils’ Association warned: “If we don’t have a pharmacy here — to put it bluntly — people are going to die.”

A quarter of people in the ward live with a limiting long-term illness or disability, and a third of the community do not have access to a car or van.

The closest pharmacy is the Monkton Avenue Boots on the Oldmixon estate, a 23-minute walk away.

But the pharmacy has said that capacity issues would limit its ability to serve more people.

Mark Graham of the For All Healthy Living Centre — which is located opposite the Bournville Boots — described it as a “horrific scary situation.”

44% of the people registered at the Horizon GP practice in the building use the pharmacy for their prescriptions.

Mr Graham said that some people would manage to adapt and use a different pharmacy but he warned: “There’s going to be a cohort of people who don’t know what to do.”

17 people access opiate substitution therapy from the pharmacy, with four of them requiring supervised consumption throughout the week.

The pharmacy also provides 300 packs of clean needles a year to injecting drug users.

A report to the health and wellbeing board warned: “This vulnerable population is unlikely to travel to other pharmacies daily and there is a risk that they will stop engaging with treatment and safer injection practices.”

The pharmacy also sees three times more teenagers coming to it for emergency contraception than go to the next closest pharmacies.

A third of consultations for emergency contraception at the pharmacy are for girls under the age of 18.

The report warned: “Restricted access to emergency contraception is likely to lead to more unwanted pregnancies and/or terminations.”

Members on the health and wellbeing board resolved to write to NHS England in support of the application for a new pharmacy, urging it to be approved quickly.

They also voted to update the area’s pharmaceutical needs assessment — the document NHS England will use to guide their decision on whether the pharmacy should open — to make clear the need for a pharmacy on the Bournville estate.

Daniel Aldridge, who started a petition to keep the pharmacy open and is standing to be selected as the Labour candidate for Weston-super-Mare in the general election, welcomed the news of the new application but warned that a gap in services before it opens would be “unacceptable.”

He said: “People who depend on this service need to know immediately what’s happening. I’m sure a solution to maintain services to our most vulnerable will be found.

“Rules and regulations can’t be used as an excuse not to expedite a process that is literally life-saving.”

Catherine Gibbons, deputy leader of North Somerset Council, said she had met with NHS England on the issue. She said: “I and the rest of the council are working as hard as possible to ensure there is not a gap in provision if at all possible.”