Monopoly on pharmacy contracts causing queues

Saturday April 16th 2022

Rosewel Steading Midlothian


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

The decision to refuse permission for a new pharmacy to open despite hour-long queues at existing branches shows the system has “gone wrong”, a GP has said.

Growing concern over people’s ability to collect prescriptions and seek local medical advice in Midlothian has led to calls for a national review of pharmacy contracts.

Health chiefs in the county held talks with NHS Lothian bosses after it was claimed people were queuing for up to an hour to pick up medicine in one town.

And at a meeting of Midlothian Integration Joint Board this week GP representative Dr Hamish Reid said the current contract system, which is operated at a national level, has “gone wrong”.

Concerns were first raised by the board in February after the Lothian Pharmacy Practices Committee refused to approve a licence for a new independent pharmacy in Rosewell, despite local support.

At the meeting Dr Reid said there had been “huge support” for the new pharmacy from GPs as well.

And he said the issues were being caused by large companies holding a monopoly over pharmacy contracts making it impossible for independent chemists to open up.

He said: “There was huge support from GPs across the county for an additional pharmacy opening.

“There is recognitions the services currently provided are inadequate. The whole pharmacy contract has gone wrong.

“Most pharmacies are being run by large firms, we have almost a monopoly of big multiples stopping anyone else getting in. It is an issue that needs to go to the top to be rectified.”

The bid to open a pharmacy in the new Rosewell community hub was rejected because opposing lawyers argued there were adequate services in neighbouring Bonnyrigg.

Councillor Derek Milligan, leader of Midlothian council, had told February’s board meeting that there were queues of up to an hour outside existing chemists in Bonnyrigg.

At this week’s meeting he repeated his concerns calling on the board to carry out a consultation on the existing pharmacy provision in Midlothian to back its argument for change.

He said: “Since raising this issue in February people from all over Midlothian have raised concerns with me regarding pharmacies and their ability to get prescriptions at short notice.

“As a layman the current contract system does not appear to be fit for purpose.”

And fellow councillor Pauline Winchester said the support for the pharmacy in Rosewell had been backed by the community.

She said: “People were given a choice of what they wanted in (the new hub) and they wanted a pharmacy so it was their choice.”

The board was advised that pharmacy contracts are dealt with at a national level by the Scottish Government.

Carloyn Hirst, board chairperson, said she had held discussions with the chief executive of NHS Lothian after concerns were raised over the decision to refuse the Rosewell chemist.

She said she was happy to add her voice to calls for a national review of pharmacy contracts.

She told the board: “There are concerns from the local community and there are concerns from our GP colleagues.

“I will add my voice to the chief executive of NHS Lothian to make a submission to the Scottish Government.”

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