Health Secretary Alex Neil today announced that the Scottish Government is to make changes to legislation to give rural communities affected by pharmacy applications additional powers.
The move follows controversy over the application for a single community pharmacy for North Uist and Benbecula.
The changes will 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.
The anoucement has been welcomed by Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, who said: “A huge number of people in Uist were in contact with me last year about the concerns they had that any new single community pharmacy would effectively end dispensing GP surgeries in North Uist and Benbecula.
“Today’s announcement from the Health Secretary, Alex Neil, will I hope give renewed confidence to island and other rural communities that their particular needs will be taken into account in any similar situations in future.
“Crucially NHS Boards will be able to apply new tests as to whether a pharmacy application is appropriate in a rural setting and whether it would undermine existing services in the area. I believe that these changes are reasonable and very helpful to island communities.”