New Standard Contract Secured in Swindon After a Rowlands Pharmacy Closes
Another great result for our client after we secured a new NHS pharmacy contract for them at Rodbourne Road in Swindon.
Hostorically there has been a pharmacy located at Rodbourne Road in Swindon for many years, but Rowlands Pharmacy applied to NHS England to consolidate this pharmacy with their nearest other branch. NHS England refused the consolidation application but Rowlands still closed the Robdourne Road pharmacy and this led to a campaign from local residents who first tried to stop the closure and then supported our client to apply for a new pharmacy to open in its place.
It is far from easy to get permission from the NHS to replace a closed pharmacy with a new one. This application went to appeal and also to an oral hearing where we were able to provide evidence to the oral hearing panel to show that residents did not have a reasonable choice of pharmacy since the closure of Rowlands.
The oral hearing panel founds as follows;
5.32 Mr Daly drew a distinction between voluntarily making a choice and being forced to make a choice. Patients were very much of the view that they were now forced to make a choice that was, for each of them, the best of a bad lot. He submitted this choice was not a reasonable one.
5.33 The Committee considered that there was some force in Mr Daly’s distinction. It noted that fares to and from the closest remaining pharmacy at Park Lane were quite high and attending here or in the town centre was a journey which involved either use of a car or, a journey on foot, by bus and on foot again. The latter would involve negotiating an unpleasant (albeit not impossible) underpass. The Committee noted that patients had referred to being dissuaded from accessing pharmaceutical services including health advice and they had delayed doing so.
5.34 Whilst Mr Thomas argued that the statistics suggested the local population was younger and in better health, the Committee found this less persuasive than the comments from the local councillors and the written documentation. Whilst there may be a trend toward youth and/or better health, this did not extinguish the evidence that areas of deprivation remained as evidenced in the written documentation and oral evidence.
5.35 The Committee was also mindful of the fact that shopping habits and accessing services had been changed by the pandemic. Whilst many goods and services, including some pharmaceutical services, are provided remotely or by delivery, not all services can be provided in this way. There appeared still to be a reluctance for the elderly and more vulnerable members of society to travel and, localism and local services were preferable than travelling to centralised or more distant services.
5.36 The Committee was of the view that the local voices regarding difficulty in access and the issue of “Hobson’s choice” as Mr Daly described it, were sufficiently persuasive to conclude that, following closure of the Rodbourne Road pharmacy, there was not now a reasonable choice available to patients in the area of Rodbourne. The increased hours offered by the Applicant in opening on a Saturday and at lunchtimes was an additional factor to be taken into account. There were also several other services in the vicinity, unlike at Park Lane, meaning Rodbourne Road was a destination and local centre.
5.37 Therefore the Committee was satisfied that, having regard to there not being a reasonable choice with regard to obtaining services, granting the application would confer significant benefits by way of physical access on persons.