17-06-2009 : McARTHUR RAISES THREAT TO DOUNBY SURGERY SERVICE IN PARLIAMENT
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, in support of dispensing GP practices in remote and rural communities, Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur, outlined the threat to the services offered by the Dounby surgery from an application to open a pharmacy across the road from it and the shortcomings in the current regulations to deal with the threat.
Liam McArthur set out the reasons for his support for the motion being debated which recognised the important role of dispensing GP practices in remote and rural communities across Scotland and raised concerns about the process which Health Boards have to follow when such practices are threatened by applications to open community pharmacy in their area. He told MSPs that an application to open a pharmacy in Dounby "has caused widespread anxiety about the potential impact on primary health care services throughout the west mainland of Orkney."
While recognising the important role that community pharmacists can play in urban and rural areas, Liam McArthur said, "The position and development of dispensing GP practices also merit close attention. Such practices are particularly prevalent in remote and rural areas. That is in no way surprising. In parts of the country where the population's size and dispersal make delivering public services difficult and therefore costly, bringing services together in a single location can be the only way of making them sustainable.
"The Dounby GP practice has been built up over three decades from its start as a single-handed practice in cramped premises. The surgery now provides local residents with access to a one-stop shop where patients can see one of two doctors, as well as a nurse, a physiotherapist and a chiropodist, all under the same roof. At a single sitting, patients can pick up any medication that they need, which is often ready by the time they leave the consulting room.
"As an integrated primary care team, working closely with the community nurse team that is based at the surgery, the staff understand their patients' social and family relationships; in the case of more dependent patients, they know who the patients' carers are and who supervises their medication."
Liam McArthur told MSPs that the application to open a community pharmacy in Dounby had resulted in him receiving around 1,500 letters expressing concern, from a patient list of 2,300, and that petitions have secured even more signatures.
Noting that the concerns are shared by the wider medical community in Orkney, he said that the secretary of the local medical committee wrote in March: "The resultant substantial and immediate reduction in funding to the Dounby practice, which would occur should this pharmacy application become successful is likely to seriously destabilise it and significantly reduce the service to West Mainland patients which they currently receive".
Liam McArthur said that the secretary "went on to ask how provision would be provided to patients in the area if the pharmacy were set up but subsequently failed." And he noted that a letter in much the same terms had been sent by the secretary of the NHS Orkney area medical committee.
Welcoming the Government's consultation on the regulations governing pharmacy services Liam McArthur acknowledged calls in some quarters for a suspension of consideration of current applications until the consultation process is complete. He summed up by saying that "the Dounby practice has invested heavily in the development and expansion of the services that it offers to patients. As part of that development, it has secured the services of a highly skilled dispensing practitioner. It seems inconceivable that that is being put at risk."