British patients will find new pharmacies easier to get to, open longer and offering a wider range of services locally following new rules to control the location of pharmacies Health Minister Rosie Winterton announced today.
Following public consultation and advice from pharmacists, patients and other interested parties the changes will make it simpler and faster for new pharmacies to open and offer the NHS services patients need, whilst supporting the vital role that pharmacies play in providing local healthcare.
The final package of measures ensures that where pharmacies benefit from four new regulatory freedoms there are also obligations and safeguards so that:
- Pharmacies located in shopping centres over 15,000 square metres, must be away from town centres;
- Pharmacies that are set up by consortia establishing new one-stop primary care centres must offer a wide range of primary care and community based services in addition to usual GP services, for instance, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, or other social or community based services to a substantial population of around 18,000 to 20,000 patients;
- Pharmacies that are wholly internet or mail-order based must provide a fully professional service; and
- Pharmacies that commit to opening more than 100 hours per week must stick to this commitment.
All pharmacy applications that fall into one of these four categories and offer a full and prescribed range of services determined locally (or in the case of internet and mail order based pharmacies by the Department of Health), will automatically have their applications to provide NHS pharmacy services accepted.
Health Minister Rosie Winterton said:
“These reforms continue to support the Government’s aim to put the needs of patients first, ensuring that local health services reflect the changing lifestyles and needs of patients. We are maintaining the vital role played by community pharmacies, particularly in poorer and rural areas, many of whom are small businesses.
“We are determined to improve access to, and the choice of, pharmacy services and to encourage innovation and excellence so that community pharmacy is recognised as a key player in the provision of NHS services.
“These reforms will provide an environment in which community pharmacy services can thrive.”
Anne Galbraith Chair of the Advisory Group said:
“Government has obviously given the proposals and our advice very careful consideration. I am sure community pharmacy and the NHS will welcome that the way forward on control of entry has now been finally determined. I am pleased to see that alongside the reform measures, Government has committed to a range of safeguards to ensure patients can continue to access the NHS pharmacy services they will need."
In addition, for pharmacies that do not want to make use of these new exemptions, the current system will be modernised. NHS Primary Care Trusts will be able to take account of the benefits that greater competition and choice for patients may bring when assessing new applications from pharmacies. The current PCT assessment process will be further streamlined to, make it quicker, more transparent and promote more consistent decision-making.