Rural pharmacy rules strengthened

Generic prescription sign Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish government had carried out a consultation into the issue

Rural communities are to be given a greater say on whether pharmacies open in their area.

A number of villages have unsuccessfully campaigned against the opening of pharmacies in recent years.

They have claimed local GP surgeries lose income from having their own dispensary if a pharmacy moves into the area.

The Scottish government said the new processes would give local communities a stronger voice.

It said the changes, which will come into force on 28 June, would improve arrangements for public consultation and community engagement in the wider pharmacy application process, as well as introducing statutory timeframes for health boards to reach decisions.

NHS boards will also be required to apply new tests when considering pharmacy applications in designated and clearly identified rural or remote areas.

They will be given powers to refuse a pharmacy application if they would adversely impact on the security and sustainable provision of existing NHS primary medical and pharmaceutical services in the area concerned.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "In recent years there has been understandable concern from communities in rural and remote areas about the impact that the opening of a new pharmacy might have on their local GP services.

"That's why I announced an immediate review of the existing arrangements in September last year with a view to amending the legislation.

"A key element of that review was to test a number of proposals in our public consultation earlier this year. The responses to that consultation have been independently analysed and showed broad support for our proposals - the amended regulations build on those proposals."

'Step forward'

The Scottish government said proposed changes to the regulations had been supported by both the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland (RPSS) and the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland (RCGPS).

In her response to the consultation, Aileen Bryson of the RPSS said: "We fully support the need for dispensing doctors in remote and rural areas, where there is no possibility of providing a full NHS pharmacy service, and are delighted to see an acknowledgement of the requirement for pharmaceutical care to be provided in addition to dispensing."

Miles Mack, of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPS), said in his response: "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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