Pharmacy Services (Office of Fair Trading Report)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 27 February 2003.

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Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 2:30, 27 February 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what meetings it has had with stakeholders following the Office of Fair Trading report on pharmacy services. (S1O-6512)

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

The health department hosted a forum on 6 February at which representatives of key stakeholder groups exchanged views about the report.

I also met the chairs and the vice-chairs of the Scottish Pharmaceutical General Council—SPGC—and the Scottish department of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on 20 February. Yesterday, health department officials also met the corporate members of the Company Chemists Association. In addition, we have encouraged all interested parties to send to the department their views in writing by the end of February.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

Following those meetings, is the minister convinced that the provision of the national health service primary care prescription-dispensing service in the community is not a matter for competition law, and that access to pharmacy dispensing services must remain available in all communities, especially those in rural and suburban areas? Does he further agree that it is not in the public interest to reverse the planned service approach that was introduced in 1987 under the previous Conservative Government?

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

The department is still collating information, so it would be inappropriate for me to take a firm view. However, I said at a meeting of the Health and Community Care Committee on Tuesday afternoon that we are adapting our approach by looking at what we have already accepted in our report "The Right Medicine: A Strategy for Pharmaceutical Care in Scotland". The Scottish Executive makes a decision on access to the lists and will take all those points into consideration as soon as it arrives at a decision. It is to be hoped that that will happen sooner rather than later.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The deputy minister may be aware that one aspect of "The Right Medicine", which was the department's review of the care strategy of the pharmaceutical services, was about improving community pharmacy services. Is the deputy minister aware that community pharmacists, such as the 25 throughout the Scottish Borders, provide invaluable local knowledge and services? For instance, at Duns and Newtown St Boswells, pharmacists have recently extended their premises to include the privacy of a consulting room. Will the deputy minister confirm that the OFT proposals fly in the face of the minister's own strategy, and that they will be resisted accordingly?

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

I welcome the partnership approach that we have adopted with the pharmacy industry throughout Scotland. As part of our primary care modernisation, we have released funds to facilitate examples such as that which Christine Grahame mentioned. As I said, we are utterly committed to "The Right Medicine", and any assessment that we make of the OFT report will be predicated on what is contained in the principle agreement that we have adopted on partnership on this issue through "The Right Medicine".

Photo of Janis Hughes Janis Hughes Labour

Can the minister assure me that he will do everything in his power to ensure that the views of the 12,000 constituents of Glasgow Rutherglen who signed petitions against the OFT report will be taken on board; that he recognises the potentially detrimental effect on our growing elderly population if the community pharmacy set-up that exists ceases; and that the Executive will do what it feels is right in Scotland, irrespective of the outcome of the OFT report?

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

In line with what the First Minister said last Thursday, and also with the submission that I made to the Health and Community Care Committee on Tuesday, we are absolutely committed to the role that community pharmacies play in communities throughout Scotland. We believe that "The Right Medicine" is an appropriate assessment in understanding how best to take forward the process. As I said, it is important that we take note of the deliberations that were submitted to us. I hope that we will arrive at a decision, and I hope to respond to Janis Hughes and other members, sooner rather than later.