The Scottish government is to review the “deeply unfair” way pharmacy applications are considered.
It is the result of a meeting between MSP Tavish Scott and health minister Alex Neil, in which Mr Scott made a plea for applications to be considered at the same time, rather than in the order they are received.
This follows the unpopular decision to award a new pharmacy licence in Scalloway to Norsepharm Ltd. The company was allowed to build a new premises in the village in spite of protests from the community, which supported a rival bid from doctors of the health centre, operating as MelbyHealth Ltd.
The doctors wanted to establish a pharmacy within the health centre, which was where patients obtained their prescriptions. The community feared losing the dispensary would mean a loss of around £150,000 per year for the practice, potentially affecting the services offered there.
Had the contract been awarded to MelbyHealth Ltd the doctors said they would plough the profits back into the health centre.
Public meetings were held to urge NHS Shetland’s pharmaceutical committee to award the licence to MelbyHealth Ltd. But because Norsepharm Ltd submitted its application first, the company was allowed to build in Main Street, against council planning guidelines.
Existing rules state the first application to meet nationally designated criteria will be granted the right to practise irrespective of local opinion.
Some villagers were so outraged they pledged to boycott the shop.
Mr Scott said: “A review of the current system will be published within the next month. The health minister has offered to meet once the review is completed to ensure that changes to the current system recognise the needs of island communities.
“This means applications should be judged against each other on their respective merits. The current system is clearly flawed, it is deeply unfair and it occurs irrespective of local opinion. This is exactly what happened to Scalloway.”
Norsepharm Ltd opened its pharmacy in September, and has applied to run the local post office from the premises.