We were contacted by an independent pharmacy operator that had two pharmacies in the North of England. Once was very close to a medical centre and the other was in a retail unit in the town centre where it had traded from for over 100 years. We were instructed to try to relocate both pharmacies into the nearest medical centres and whilst one was quite straightforward, the other was refused by NHSE as they felt that it was leaving a town centre location and there was a gradient between the two sites which was steep in parts. We appealed the NHS England refusal and Primary Care Appeals decided to hold an oral hearing to determine the application. There was significant objection to the relocation from a local multiple operator that had an existing pharmacy directly opposite the medical centre that my client wanted to move in to and they argued that the relocation would make the pharmacy significantly less accessible for its current patient groups. The oral hearing panel agreed with us that in order to consider if something is "less" accessible it is important to compare access to the current premises with access to the proposed premises and not just consider the proposed premises in isolation. The oral hearing panel agreed with our submission that, as steep gradients were found across the town and wider area, having a steep gradient to get to the proposed site was not making it significantly less accessible. The panel also accepted that there were alternate ways to access the proposed location that did not require the same steep gradient to be navigated and did not add considerably to the distance involved.
The decision was incredibly important to the owners of the pharmacy as there current pharmacy was no longer viable in its current location and would have had to close after more than 100 years serviing the local community if the relocation had been refused and the staff would have been made redundant.
Both branches can now relocate to new premises inside the medical centres.