Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has welcomed new legislation intended to give local communities more say in decisions over local pharmacies as well as providing security for primary care services.
Following a “continued campaign” to put local community views at the heart of any decisions made regarding local pharmacies, Mr Scott asked Scottish health minister Alex Neil during general questions at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday what practical difference the new regulations will make for island GP practices.
He was assured that new regulations will allow for future community consultation and will ensure that local GP practices can remain financially sustainable and will not automatically lose out as a result of external competition.
Mr Scott said later: “Dispensing pharmacies provide a vital service for local people in Shetland and it is good that changes are finally being implemented. The previous system was flawed and was deeply unfair, allowing decisions to be made irrespective of local opinion. This was demonstrated by Scalloway when the village lost its GP community pharmacy in 2012.”
“When consulted on the pharmacy application by Norsepharm back in 2012, the wider community served by Scalloway surgery expressed unanimous support for the dispensing by Scalloway surgery to continue but was essentially ignored throughout the decision making process. It is certainly good news to see that changes have been made and that this will no longer be the case in the future.”
“It is good that the Scottish Government has finally taken action to recognise the needs of island communities and the importance of local pharmacies to local GP practices. There will be more detail to sort out but this is a step forward.”
It appears that under the new regulations any application that could threaten the future of existing GP dispensing services could be refused.
In response to Mr Scott’s question, Mr Neil said: The two core impacts that the new regulations will have are that there will be a community voice in the application process—that has been missing to date, and it will be extremely important—and the board will have the power in looking at any particular application to consider the potential consequences for the wider health service, particularly the impact on primary care services in the area.
“Currently, the board would not be legally covered by the existing regulations if it took that consideration into account in deciding on an application. It will be able to do that under the new regulations so that, in a Cumbrae-type situation for example, if the consequence of approving the entry of a new pharmacy would be that the local GP service would be lost, that would be justification for the board’s refusing the application for the pharmacy.”