Our client already had one pharmacy in Cornwall, but saw an opportunity to open a second pharmacy in a nearby village. There has been an unsuccessful pharmacy application in the same village some years earlier, but when we reviewed that application decision it became clear that the reasons for refusal were more about technicalities than the merits of the case.
We prepared the application and our client submitted it in early 2020. The local dispensing doctors appointed their own advisor to help them object to the application and started a local campaign to encourage their patients to object. The NHS local team took the unusual step of holding an oral hearing (virtual due to COVID restrictions) to determine parts of the case. These hearings normally only happen at appeal stage but it was an excellent opportunity to properly present the case on behalf of our client. We prepared and submitted a Skeleton Argument outlining our case before the hearing and followed that up with a presentation at the hearing. Surprisingly the doctors' advisor attended the hearing but then informed the panel that he intended to keep his real evidence back for the appeal stage rather than present it to NHS England. This helped our client as it was for the doctors to provide that allowing the pharmacy to open would prejudice the proper provision of NHS services and by not presenting any evidence (even when encouraged to do so by the panel), NHS England had no choice but to find against them. In addition, NHS England accepted our arguments that the new pharmacy would secure better access to pharmaceutical services and that it would provide significant benefits to patients and they granted the application.
The dispensing doctors had expected to be able to appeal this decision, but appeal rights are only granted to those persons who are notified for particular reasons of the pharmacy application and the doctors fell outside of the permitted category. the doctors were still able to appeal on the issues of whether the relevant location was to be considered "reserved" or not and whether granting the application would prejudice the proper provision of NHS services. Whether an area is classed as "reserved" or not was vitally important to our client as if the area was classed as reserved then the doctors would be allowed to continue to dispense to all their patients and the pharmacy would struggle to be financially viable.
Primary Care Appeals considered the appeal and found in favour of our client on all the relevant points. Our client's application was approved and the doctors will have to cease dispensing to patients who live within a 1 mile radius of the new pharmacy.