NHS block on new Hub pharmacy

Published

George Binning

Plans to introduce a pharmacy in the refurbished Hub have been blocked by the NHS Pharmacy Practice Committee (PPC) in the interests of local competition.

Neeraj Salwan, co-owner of Apple Pharmacy, submitted the application for a pharmacy to a panel consisting of the PPC and the representatives of the pharmacies in the local vicinity, referred to as the ‘interested parties’.

The objective of the meeting was to “determine whether the granting of the application was necessary or desirable to secure the adequate provision of pharmaceutical services in the neighbourhood”. The panel concluded that the application was neither and voted unanimously against it.

It was decided that the Boots on Byers Road and the Andrew Hand Pharmacy on Dumbarton road were the two pharmacies situated inside the boundaries of the local neighbourhood. Both Mr Salwan, ‘the Applicant’, and Mr Charles Tait, representing Boots pharmaceutical chain, admitted that the subject of the boundaries had been the topic of some debate.

Mr Salwan said: “I’m going to go back for another look, in past cases the local ‘neighbourhood’ has often been hard to define.

“The issue is complicated by the fact that there are students coming onto campus everyday from many different neighbourhoods.”

Mr Tait also said: “There is always a dispute over the boundaries of the local neighbourhood, but it is the prerogative of the Pharmaceutical Practice Committee to decide on this matter.”

Prior to the meeting, the committee visited Stirling University’s on-campus pharmacy, a site which which Mr Salwan advocated as a perfect test case for the Hub proposals.

“It is impossible to deny the good service that the Stirling Campus pharmacy provides to students. We spoke to the pharmacist and saw how valuable a pharmacy was, especially in its capacity to devote extra time and resources to the needs of students.

“I believe the proposal will improve existing pharmaceutical services rather than detract from their business. In Glasgow there seems to be a gap in the market for this specialised sort of service.”

Charles Tait, representing the Boots pharmacy chain, disagreed, saying that the location of Stirling campus differed significantly from that of Glasgow, arguing: “The site of the Hub’s pharmacy is in a distinct category to Stirling’s on-campus pharmacy. The difference being that the Hub is in the middle of a major city, and its impact on the neighbourhood would be greater.”

A range of student specific services was suggested in the application. Mr Salwan put forward suggestions including a travel clinic boasting a wide range of vaccines and a sexual health clinic with Chlamydia testing and emergency hormonal contraception available, to which Mr Tait pointed out that some of the services promised were unavailable on the NHS, and would have had to be privately contracted.

Gerry Hughes, representative for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Area Pharmaceutical CP Subcommittee, said that his pharmacy was able to provide the majority of travel vaccines already.

“We have all the travel vaccines the Hub would be offering, except for Japanese Encephalitis B and Yellow Fever.”

Mr Tait was of the same stance: “Boots already offers sexual health advice, but not all travel vaccines, though they can be ordered in.”

Mr Hughes raised the subject of access to the Hub, claiming: “If entry to the Hub is requires a student card, then public access becomes an issue. If it is then classed as a private pharmacy then it will be impossible to get remuneration from the NHS.”

Similarly Mr Tait claimed: “No pharmacy purely aimed at students would be viable.”

However, with a population of 20,000 students and almost 6000 staff, Mr Salwan did not foresee a problem arising: “It is not just students but the thousands of staff who will be able to make use of the facilities; I do not intend to make a massive profit on the project.”

He did concede that the pharmacy would be unfeasible without the participation of the NHS: “We would need an NHS contract to make the pharmacy possible.”

Mr Salwan also told Guardian that he intended to resubmit his application to the committee.

He said: “I will be submitting a fresh application with more backing in the near future. The date for the next hearing will be arranged by the health board. I will be going for it guns blazing this time. I want to play more on the desirability of the proposal in the next application.”

Gerry Hughes explained that the law was unbending in relation to the creation of new pharmacies: “If there is already adequacy of provision the question of desirability is negated, this is a statutory instrument. We had no choice but to reject the application as we have a strict set of procedures to follow.”

Gavin Lee, president of the SRC, expressed frustration at the PPC’s decision: “The SRC is extremely disappointed that the application for a pharmacy in The Hub has been rejected. There is a real and significant need for a pharmacy on campus.

“We believe that having a pharmacy at the centre of campus will benefit students’ health and wellbeing, and encourage far more students to seek out treatment for any illness they may be experiencing. The SRC will actively support any application for a pharmacy on Gilmorehill Campus.”

Peter Venables, the third interested party, representing Andrew Hand pharmacy, declined to comment on the matter.