PHARMACIES are helping to tackle health inequalities across Cheshire West and Chester, an investigation has found.

There are 79 pharmacies across the borough, including 22 in Chester, 16 in Ellesmere Port and 17 in rural areas.

A report by the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board states there is “acceptable coverage for its population with a good range of services, good accessibility and opening hours throughout the week”.

However, it highlights a need for more pharmacies to offer emergency hormonal contraception (EHC).

It states: “EHC is currently provided in up to 55 of 79 pharmacies. However, the EHC service is not guaranteed in participating pharmacies during all opening hours because there may not be an accredited pharmacist on duty.

“Faster access to EHC particularly at weekends significantly improves effectiveness and thus reduces unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, it would be advantageous if all pharmacies in Cheshire West and Chester guaranteed an EHC service for all of their contracted hours.”

Around 14 pharmacies that do not offer the service have reportedly expressed a willingness to do so.

The investigation also reveals key health statistics that broadly show the borough is in line with the rest of the country.

However, those living in areas of identified social deprivation are shown to have a reduced life expectancy of between nine and 10 years. These locations include Lache, Blacon, and Ellesmere Port.

Obesity continues to be a problem across the borough with almost two in three adults having “excess weight”.

It is estimated that 24 per cent of adults are obese and 40 per cent are overweight - similar to the England average.

Furthermore, maternity data from 2016/17 suggests that in Cheshire West and Chester, half of all pregnant women are overweight or obese which is higher than the national average of 46 per cent.

One in five children in school reception year (aged four to five) and one in three children in year six (aged 10 to 11) are overweight.

Alcohol is another issue identified in the report with 2,038 alcohol related hospital admissions for borough residents in 2015/16.

Sexual health appears to be improving with the number of diagnosed cases of most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) falling and rates of infection lower than those for the North West.

The most common STIs diagnosed in Cheshire West and Chester are chlamydia and genital warts. Teenage conceptions have also fallen each year since 2012.

The report states: “Overall health status within Cheshire West and Chester is generally good with mortality rates in the under 75s either better or similar to the England averages for all cancers, circulatory, respiratory and liver diseases.

“Cheshire West and Chester residents have similar lifestyle issues as in the rest of the country. Thus, there are high prevalence’s of obesity or overweight, smoking and alcohol consumption. Community pharmacies have a key role in helping to tackle these and other issues such as substance misuse and sexual health.”