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NHS to follow “custom and practice” on pharmacy applications

NHS Shetland has insisted that they will have to consider two applications for a new pharmacy in Scalloway one after the other.

The move comes in response to political attempts by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott to have the decision making process changed in a bid to give both applications a hearing at the same time.

In July, NHS Shetland received an application for a private pharmacy in the village by Norsepharm.

This was countered by a rival application from Melby Health, a company associated with the local GP practice, which has said that retaining the pharmacy was crucial for the viability of the practice.

Mr Scott said on Tuesday that he had now received assurances from Shona Robison, the Scottish minister for public health, that there was no legal requirement on NHS Shetland to consider the applications in the order they were received.

But the intervention from the Scottish government was questioned by NHS Shetland last night.

Its director for pharmacy Chris Nicolson said that the legal advice they had received would not allow them to make changes to the prescribed process.

Mr Nicolson said: “We have to follow the regulations. In Scotland we got no mandate of acting independently of the regulations, so we have to follow custom and practice.

“We had to seek legal opinion and our advice means that we have to hear each application in turn. Our position is fairly clear on that at the moment.”

This means that the application by Melby Health will only be considered if the bid by Lerwick-based Norsepharm is refused.

Mr Scott said last night that he had now written again to the minister seeking further re-assurance.

He added: “It is very much in the interest of the Scalloway community for both applications to be considered before a choice is made. I want NHS Shetland to decide which the best chemist for local people is, and to take this decision without the threat of legal action.

“It would seem to be crazy to accept the first application, without investigating whether the second one would be better. And it would be equally unwise to reject the first, in the hope that the second was better, only to find out that it isn’t.

“That is why NHS Shetland must be allowed to consider the applications together and why I want the government to help in avoiding the risk of a credible judicial challenge.

“This is a big decision for Scalloway and I want to ensure that our local Health Board can take all factors into account. That means considering both applications to run a chemist in Scalloway at the same time.”

Mr Nicolson said it was unlikely that the body making the decision, the pharmacy practice committee (PPC), would meet before January next year to look at the first application.