Date Published: 6 April 2009
BMA Scotland calls for halt on community pharmacy applications
The BMA in Scotland has today (Monday 6 April 2009) called on the Scottish Government to suspend decision making on new community pharmacy applications following concerns expressed by the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee about the transparency of the process.
The committee is considering a petition, lodged by Fife patient Alan Kennedy, which called on the Scottish Parliament “to urge the Scottish Government to review all relevant legislation to ensure the continuance of general practitioner dispensing practices in instances where commercial pharmaceutical practices apply to operate in the same local area.” The petition received more than 2000 signatures of support from local residents.
The BMA believes that the lack of transparency and involvement in the pharmacy application process is unfair to practices which currently offer dispensing services to patients. It also has concerns about the impact that the creation of a new community pharmacy can have on the range and level of services offered by these GP practices, which are often located in the most remote and rural parts of Scotland.
Following consideration of the evidence, the Petitions Committee agreed that this petition presented a case to be answered and has therefore written to the Scottish Government asking:
* Whether it will revise the NHS (Pharmaceutical Services) (Scotland) Regulations 1995, to allow dispensing GP practices to make direct representations to pharmaceutical committees when an application to open a pharmacy is made?
* Whether the lack of any requirement to consult with all affected parties, including dispensing GPs and the public is not at odds with the duty placed on all NHS Boards to consult and encourage public involvement as required by the NHS Reform (Scotland) Act 2004?
The committee also asks what steps the government will take to rectify this anomaly.
The BMA believes that it is therefore appropriate for decision making for pharmacy applications to be halted until the Petitions Committee has concluded its inquiry. Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said:
“Patient satisfaction surveys demonstrate that patients value the services that dispensing practices provide. In a remote and rural area where patients tend to be older and where public transportation is limited patients often prefer to collect their medicines from the same place that they have consulted their GP.
A GP practice’s right to dispense has no legislative protections and can be withdrawn by the NHS Board at any time. Where a pharmacy application is accepted resulting in a new pharmacy in the area, the practice will lose its right to dispense with immediate effect. This sudden impact on income can have a considerable affect on the practice and its patients and we believe that step down arrangements should be introduced to allow the practices a period of time to adjust.
This problem created by the lack of protection for dispensing status is compounded by a seriously flawed pharmacy application process as set out in regulations.”
Source: British Medical Association.