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20 May 2014
New powers proposed for communities in pharmacy applications

New powers proposed for communities in pharmacy applications

Local communities will have a stronger voice in local pharmacy applications from next month, Health Secretary Alex Neil has announced.

“I am absolutely determined to dramatically strengthen the voice of the community in deciding whether a new pharmacy should go ahead. The current procedure is not fit for purpose,” he told Pharmacy leaders at Holyrood’s ‘Prescribing excellence’ conference.

A review of existing legislation was called last year after a number of remote and rural communities objected to pharmacies opening because of the adverse effects it would have on local GP services that depend on income from medicine dispensing. Neil said he had been “appalled” at the approval procedure, which didn’t take local views into account.

Now public consultations with statutory timeframes will be mandatory for health boards when considering pharmacy applications. If communities are identified as rural or remote, new tests on sustainability of the provision of existing primary care services will be carried out.

The new safeguards will also recognise need for pharmaceutical care in communities.

“The new arrangements are intended to promote stability of GP and pharmaceutical services in rural areas, whilst also ensuring local communities across Scotland have adequate access to a qualified pharmacist,” Neil said.

The Scottish Government’s Prescription for Excellence action plan will see greater integration between pharmacy and general practice, recognising the pharmacist as an ‘expert in medicines’ and the GP as an ‘expert in diagnoses’. Changes will see pharmacists increasingly become the first port of call for more ailments, with greater abilities to prescribe drugs.

Proposed changes to the regulations have been supported by both the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland and the Royal College of General Practitioners, Scotland.

In response the Government’s consultation, Miles Mack, Royal College of General Practitioners, Scotland said: “The designation of ‘controlled remote and rural and isolated localities’ will be a significant step forward in health service planning for these areas.”

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