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.”