Over 250 people unanimously voted that they did not need or want Norsepharm Pharmacy to be opened in Scalloway in early February at the public consultation meeting.
On Monday this week it was announced that the Shetland Pharmacy Practices Committee (PPC) had approved plans for the new Norsepharm Pharmacy to open.
The public consultation system, as it is, must be called a farce.
A completely united community vote, plus hundreds of letters petitioning to leave local dispensing unchanged and to reject the Norsepharm application (because they felt they did not need it and because of the detrimental effect it would have on Scalloway Health Centre funding and therefore healthcare provision) has been totally disregarded by the PPC.
The community voice (and Tavish Scott) also strongly requested that the Shetland Health Board allow the two applications (Melby and Norsepharm) which had gone in within 24 hours of each other to be heard together. This would enable the merits of both to be considered and the most locally beneficial pharmacy to be approved.
Scottish custom and practice would have had to be challenged which seems appropriate given that new legislation in 2009 introduced the public consultation process now in place.
Introducing public consultation ought to alter custom and practice or it is pointless. Shetland Health Board failed us by refusing to do this.
Hearing only one application and disregarding the voice of the community shows that no matter how strongly the community feels about an application like this, their views can be overridden by a small committee with a narrow agenda and criteria. This shows very clearly that the system, if calling itself democratic, is failing.
It is true, and discouraging, that the community has had little to no impact on this decision. However, I believe that the community has made an important step towards revealing the flaws in the system so that it may be challenged.
I am sorry that the “consultation” was a farce and has wasted a huge amount of people’s time. Nevertheless, I hope that those eligible to appeal the PPC’s decision will do so as it will not be wasting time if it leads to a more democratic process and outcome.