In my reply to Mr Kelly in the chamber on 6 December last year, I indicated that the Scottish Government has no role in monitoring applications or appeals relating to the opening of a community pharmacy. Those are entirely matters for national health service boards and the national appeal panel, respectively.
However, the Scottish Government keeps under review the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) (Scotland) Regulations 2009, as amended, which regulate the applications process. We propose to update in the near future the control-of-entry guidance that is issued to all NHS boards and contractors.
I have written to the Minister for Public Health about a pharmacy application in Whitlawburn in my constituency, which has gone to the health board, has been referred to the national appeal panel and has gone back to the health board, where the latest hearing has been postponed. I have real concerns about the openness, fairness and transparency of those hearings, so I have written to the Minister for Public Health requesting a meeting. I ask that that meeting be facilitated.
I am aware of the application to which Mr Kelly refers. My understanding is that the issue is that there is sufficient local provision, which is why the application has to date been unsuccessful. However, I am absolutely sure that my colleague, the Minister for Public Health, would be more than happy to meet Mr Kelly to discuss his concerns about the process.
Appeals can be complex and the complexities can vary from case to case, depending on the merits of individual cases. That is especially so where there is more than one interested party lodging an appeal, or there is new evidence to be considered.
I understand that the national appeal panel usually considers appeals in order of the date on which the chair receives them, and aims to consider appeals within three months of receiving all the relevant papers. It can sometimes take longer if several appeals are received around the same time. However, I will monitor the situation; if I believe that timescale is becoming an issue, I will be prepared to consider the matter.