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MSPs concerned by Minister's mixed messages on pharmacy proposals

20th December 2013

Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, are concerned by the mixed messages emanating from the Scottish Government over community pharmacy applications.

Mrs Grant and Mr Stewart have been in dialogue with the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil, about the legislation surrounding community pharmacy applications since August. The Cabinet Secretary subsequently announced a review of current legislation and has since begun a consultation to have existing legislation changed. The Cabinet Secretary had previously appeared to sympathise that it was very frustrating for communities that are facing potential applications in the meantime. As things stand, the Minister cannot sanction a freeze on these applications and neither can the Health Board. The Labour MSPs however have now been advised by Mr Neil that he would expect NHS Boards to continue to consider applications submitted to them under the provisions and requirements of Regulations then in force.

Rhoda Grant said The communities of Castletown and Canisbay are in limbo as they understand Mr Majhu is going to submit a formal application to NHS Highland. The Cabinet Secretary acknowledges the frustration of this situation but yet says it should be business as normal until legislation is changed and he would expect Health Boards to continue to consider applications under the present regulations despite his own admission that his Governments legislation is not fit for purpose. This is wholly unacceptable and the people of Castletown and Canisbay are right to feel aggrieved at their situation.

David Stewart said We are pressing the Minister to remove this uncertainty from rural communities who are concerned about the impact on existing services. The Minister has confirmed to us that the viability of GP practices are not taken into account by NHS Boards when considering applications to open a community pharmacy. He has stated that it is wrong that the views of the community are not taken into account and is proposing that this be changed in the future. In spite of this however, he says that applications should continue to be considered under a system that, by his own admission, is broken. This is a ludicrous situation to say the least.

The Cabinet Secretary had previously stated that he would have called a moratorium on community pharmacy applications if he had the legal power to do so and has stated that current legislation is not fit for purpose and that the views of communities should be taken into account in the decision making process. Health Boards are not is a position to suspend community pharmacy applications until present legislation is revoked and replaced with other instruction.

On 17th December the minister Alex Neil wrote to MSP Rhoda Grant in respose to her letter -

Thank you for your correspondence of 28 November 2013 about the arrangements for
applying to open a community pharmacy.

I note that you have written to NHS Highland about the suspending of applications in
advance of the coming into force of any amended Regulations, and I also note their
response to you. While this is a matter for NHS Highland, I would expect NHS Boards to
continue to consider applications submitted to them under the provisions and requirements of Regulations then in force.

NHS Boards currently have powers to require a GP practice to dispense to some or all of its patients if those patients would otherwise have serious difficulty in getting their prescriptions dispensed. Those circumstances will, as you might expect, vary from area to area. Should an application to open a community pharmacy be approved in such an area, any NHS Board must consider whether those circumstances still apply and will take account of any local factors specific to that area. Currently, the viability of GP practices are not taken into account by NHS Boards when considering applications to open a community pharmacy.

As you will by now be aware, the second stage of our review of the regulatory framework
supporting both the pharmacy application arrangements and the dispensing of medicines by GP practices began on 12 December with the launch of our consultation document A
Consultation on the Control of Entry Arrangements and Dispensing GP Practices. That
document can be found on the Scottish Government consultation web pages at:
www.scotland.gov.uklPublications/2013/12/2198. The outcome of this consultation will help develop amended Regulations and your views on the proposals set out will, of course, be very welcome.
ALEX

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