Controversial Scalloway pharmacy proposal approved by NHS Shetland

Local politicians have expressed dismay after NHS Shetland approved a private application to build a pharmacy in the centre of Scalloway despite widespread opposition in the community.

Norsepharm Ltd. has been granted the right to go ahead with its proposal for new purpose-built premises on Main Street, near the Kiln Bar, at a meeting of the Shetland pharmacy practices committee last Tuesday.The decision, announced today, has been greeted with dismay in the village because NHS Shetland insisted a rival application by Melbyhealth Ltd, formed by Scalloway doctors Paul and Philippa Veenhuizen, could not be heard at the same time.

Melbyhealth wanted to open a pharmacy within the Scalloway health centre and use the profits for the benefit of patients – it makes around £150,000-a-year from the existing dispensary.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said the decision highlighted that current regulations do not operate in the best interests of patients and the local community. He hopes the two doctors will appeal against NHS Shetland’s decision.

“My biggest disappointment is that it clearly overrides the express view of local people in Scalloway,” Mr Scott said. “Health ministers are at pains to say that the health board have to have regard for local views, and the trouble is the system seems to allow those views to be ignored. I don’t think that’s good enough.

“We have to have these applications considered together, and then the best decision should be taken in the interests of the healthcare of local people. I would encourage the Scalloway GPs to give serious consideration to lodging an appeal.”

Councillor for the area Betty Fullerton, who used to work for the health board, also felt it was a bad outcome for the area.

“We’re disappointed that the decision has been made given the strength of feeling in the community in support of the application from the doctors’ surgery,” she said. “We will have to wait and see what the results of the change are, but it hasn’t taken into consideration the wishes of the community.”

More than 250 people attended a recent public meeting on the issue where opposition to the Norsepharm application was unanimous. The claim by NHS Shetland officials that legislation specified that it had to be heard first was greeted with disdain.

In its statement today NHS Shetland said the Norsepharm application was considered against a legal test laid out in the NHS (Pharmaceutical Services) (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

It states that an application will be granted if it “is satisfied that the provision of pharmaceutical services at the premises is necessary or desirable in order to secure adequate provision of pharmaceutical services in the neighbourhood in which the premises are located”.

The statement said the committee had agreed that, because there were no pharmacies – as opposed to dispensaries – in the area, the service was “currently inadequate”.

The committee also concluded the new pharmacy contract, including new services such as the chronic medication service, would have benefits for Scalloway patients.

It stated: “Pharmacists also contribute to patient care and the safe provision of medicines. The committee also carefully considered all the feedback received from the public consultation, which predominately centred on concerns for the future of the Scalloway surgery rather than an objection to the provision of pharmacy services.

“The committee concluded that the provision of a pharmacy would add to the range and quality of health care delivered to patients in the Scalloway area. A pharmacy in Scalloway would provide patient choice, as currently patients have to travel to Lerwick to access these services.”

Committee chairman Keith Massey said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in the process. The pharmacy practices committee took a great deal of time and care in reaching the decision. The members carried out their difficult roles very thoroughly and I appreciate the work they put in.”


Add Your Comment
  • Barbara Gray

    • February 28th, 2011 17:45

    How mad is this. Surely the role of the NHS is to look after patients. This is a travisty and should be appealed to everyone possible.

  • James Semple

    • March 1st, 2011 20:44

    Why is the application by Norsepharm Ltd described as a ‘private application’ whilst the rival application by ‘Melbyhealth Ltd’ is not?
    Is it because the shareholders of Melbyhealth Ltd happen (I assume) to be GPs?
    Both companies are legally equivalent – because NHS pharmacy services are contracted to ‘private’ companies. (These may be limited companies, but they may also be partnerships or individuals).
    Are people so naïve that they believe that the directors of any limited company will donate their dividend to the NHS?
    Funnily enough, in most places (including Scalloway) General Medical Services are also contracted out to private companies. These are usually known as ‘your local GP’, but contrary to popular belief they are not employees of the NHS. They are privately owned businesses.
    General Medical Services are fully – and some would say generously – funded by the NHS. Dispensing income is not required, or intended, to supplement GMS income. Neither is the income GPs may earn as directors of a limited company.
    A pharmacy will be valuable addition to NHS services in the area – an opinion which seems to be shared by the local GPs who have had an unsuccessful bash at introducing it themselves.
    But rules are rules, and it’s first come – first served.
    Congratulations are due to Mr Clyde, and commiserations to Drs Veenhuizen. However the public were going to be winners either way, and should have little interest in the actual result.

  • Glenn Gilfillan

    • March 2nd, 2011 9:49

    Mr Semple, you appear to be completely ignorant of the local situation with the practice in question. Your arguments may bear truth in many situation, but not in Scalloway. There is no doubt that there will be a vastly reduced level of service suffered by the local community, primarily from the loss of GPs who will have their contracts ceased. The local community is fully aware that the practise is a private company, and it is further recognised that the profits generated are reinvested in to the service.

    A process where if you apply first and meet the requirements, then no further applications will be considered is utterly ridiculous. Applications should be viewed together and the most suitable application chosen. Imagine if you employed the first person that applied for a job! You have also convenietly ignored the fact that the advisors to the local pharmacy board were the applicants themselves, how that is allowed is even more startling.

    You finished your comment by saying “the public were going to be winners either way, and should have little interest in the actual result”. Loss of local jobs, loss of service, longer waiting times due to reduction in GPs, more competition for allready struggling local shops, inappropriate situation of premises, etc, etc. No winners here other than Clyde and Johnson!

    I always try to support local businesses whenever possible, but I will make and exception in this case and travel to Boots in Lerwick to pick up prescriptions.

  • Ted Knight

    • March 2nd, 2011 10:59

    During my two years stay at Scalloway, Main Street was lifeless for most of the day. A dribble or two of folk into the Kiln Bar Cafe and the food store down the road relieved the tedium but, by and large, the place was a cemetery without the trappings, so bring on the new Pharmacy, I say.

    The only thing of note I recall about that particular Scalloway locale, were my occasional walks around Garriock Station, where one could read and ponder upon the Nazi graffiti and note, with huge disappointment, the disgusting state of a rubbish-strewn waterfront.

    I wonder, from afar, has anything changed?

    If the nimbies wish to travel to Lerwick for their prescriptions, well bully for them.


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