In February we were instructed by a large multiple pharmacy operator to represent them at an oral hearing in the north west and defend against an application that had been submitted by a group of local doctors who also had dispensing rights at their local medical centre and also operated the next nearest medical centre. As our client's pharmacy was the only one for several miles, the doctors argued that the issue of choice should be given considerable weight. They also argued that they would provide innovative services and that it was difficult for patients to access the existing pharmacy due to both its location and its hours of opening. In addition, the doctors also had a local councillor who arrived at the hearing to give evidence about what local people had told him about pharmacy services.
The hearing was a long one as the doctors had significant amounts of evidence and we wanted to challenge most of it. We submitted that the doctor's application lacked credibility and was also inconsistent. We also argued that despite the doctor's claim that they would give up their dispensing rights if the pharmacy was permitted to open. this was highly unlikely to happen in the circumstances of this case.
We were able to show that the evidence from the local councillor was inaccurate and that he had failed to disclose any negative comments that had been made by local people. In addition, the services that were being described as innovative were either not relevant under the Regulations or were already being provided. The Committee accepted our submission that the existing pharmacy was well located for local people (unlike the doctor's surgery) and whilst the doctors were offering longer opening hours we were able to show that few, if any, patients used the existing 100 hour pharmacy located a few miles away.
For any Committee to be able to decide on applications like this they require evidence that is credible and reliable. There is no point in simply disagreeing with what an applicant has said if you have nothing to back it up and whilst the burden of proof is on the applicant, no objector should simply hope that they fail to meet the burden of proof. The case presented by the doctors and their representatives was well thought through and a lot of work had gone in to it, but inconsistencies and lack of evidence to support statements made in the early stages of the application process meant that is was difficult to accept what the applicant was claiming.
The Committee refused the application.