A Newcastle-based pharmaceutical group has acquired a new premises in Whitley Bay to support its Covid-19 vaccination programme, with support from Lloyds Bank.

Welcome Health Pharmacies was founded in 2016 after acquiring its first pharmacy in Skelton. Since, the business has added four further chemists to its portfolio in locations across Teesside and North Tyneside and is hoping to add new sites over the coming years.

Over the course of the pandemic, Welcome Health Pharmacies has worked closely with the NHS to assist with the vaccine rollout, with the firm’s Whitley Bay pharmacy acting as a key site for vaccination administrations.

The business hopes to continue supporting the NHS with the Phase 3 booster vaccination programme. To ensure a smooth rollout, the firm has decided to move to a larger premises in the town that will allow more patients to be seen and new services to be added.

To facilitate the move, Welcome Health Pharmacies approached Lloyds Bank, receiving a six-figure funding package along with a refinancing agreement.

The financial support helped the business acquire a new three-story pharmacy on Whitley Road, doubling the size of the firm’s current Whitley Bay base. The new 2,500 sq ft premises is currently undergoing a full refurbishment and will open its doors in December.

The firm’s Whitley Bay branch now plans to grow its team from four to eight employees, a move which will take the total number of employees at the firm to over 60. The new staff will support the continued vaccination effort and assist with the business’ new services, which will include influenza flu jabs and weight loss clinics.

Vaibhav Chhatwal, director of Welcome Health Pharmacies, said: “Our teams across all five of our pharmacies have played a key role in Phases 1 and 2 of the vaccine rollout, and we’re keen to keep supporting where we can. With Phase 3 now underway, we wanted to do everything possible to help the local community which is why we have decided to expand our base in Whitley Bay.

“We couldn’t be making the move without the support from Lloyds Bank. With their help we have been able to press ahead with the acquisition and make inroads into getting the pharmacy ready for the end of this year.

“On top of expanding our vaccination programme, the pharmacy is also helping the business to grow with the introduction of our new services that we hope will benefit the community for years to come.”

Lisa Hay, relationship director at Lloyds Bank, said: “With the coronavirus vaccination effort continuing at pace, the North East remains one of the regions with the highest vaccine uptake, with over 11.5m doses administered so far.

“This efficient vaccination drive would not be possible without the work of businesses like Welcome Health Pharmacies and we’re happy to have supported the business scale up its vaccination service with the new Whitley Bay pharmacy.

“With Phase 3 of the rollout now underway, we’ll remain by the side of North East businesses over the coming months as they continue to bounce back and boost Britain’s recovery.”