Braintree has a significant number of pharmacies which are clustered around the town centre. When a local medical practice decided to relocate nearly 1 mile away, our client, who had a pharmacy opposite the original medical centre, wanted to move with them.
Deciding on the best course of action was difficult, as even though our client was happy to relocate their pharmacy to the new medical centre, the distance might be considered too far for the NHS to approve and the locations were distinctly different. A further complication was that another contractor applied to open a new pharmacy at the new medical centre premises. We advised our client that the best course of action was to submit two applications, one for a relocation and another for a new pharmacy contract. In some ways this is contradictory, but we felt that the best strategy was to present the evidence to the NHS and give them the opportunity to decide on the best outcome rather than telling them what we thought it should be.
Initially NHS England allowed our client's relocation and refused the new contract applications. The applications went to appeal and an oral hearing was convened to hear all three applications together and in relation to one another. We represented our client in both of their applications and also to object to the application from the other pharmacy contractor. The oral hearing panel agreed that a pharmacy should be permitted to open at the new medical centre site, but they took a different approach to NHS England and granted our client's application to open a brand new pharmacy and refused the application from the other pharmacy contractor and our client's relocation application.
The case was of note as it shows the relationship between relocations and new contract applications. Our position was that, if the relocation was considered to be too far and patient groups would find the new premises significantly less accessible, then by the same argument, granting a new contract would secure better access to pharmaceutical services (which is one of the main requirements of regulation 18 for new contract approvals). The oral hearing panel did not address this point in their decision, but in any event our client has the result that they wanted.