Public health minister Shona Robison has been asked by isles MSP Tavish Scott to order an independent review of the handling of the rival applications to open pharmacies in Scalloway.
Mr Scott is worried that the current process might mean the community-backed application by Scalloway’s GPs to run a pharmacy from the existing practice is never heard. The other application, by Norsepharm, was submitted first and must be heard first according to NHS Shetland.
In a letter to the minister Mr Scott stated that he strongly believed the applications should be heard together. “I am at a loss to understand how a fair, transparent and correct decision can possibly be taken if this does not happen.”
He noted that the original advice from the minister, that the legislation did not require the applications to be considered sequentially, seemed to have been contradicted by advice the government had given to NHS Shetland. He wrote that, at the recent public meeting in Scalloway attended by more than 300 people, “there was a lack of belief in the procedures and guidance that NHS Shetland state they must follow”.
“I am very clear that a new government will want to look afresh at how local people’s views are secondary to a procedure which looks demonstrably unfair. There is also the cost to all parties, including NHS Shetland, which presumably also includes the legal advice. I have asked NHS Shetland to explain what legal advice they received and whether that did indeed include advice from the Scottish government.”
Mr Scott ended his letter by asking the minister for an urgent review and to instruct NHS Shetland to hold the current applications in abeyance until the review has concluded.
“The minister seems to have softened her original clear advice to me that the two applications could be considered together, but she has never contradicted that advice. But whatever the legal position, the fact is that to consider the applications sequentially rather than together flies in the face of the clearly expressed wishes of the local community. Unless the Norsepharm application is rejected, the application by the GPs, which has the full backing of the community, will fall. That would make no sense at all and would rightly anger the community. That is why the process must be halted while the handling of it is reviewed.”