The second half of 2015 saw a marked change in the way that decisions have been made, especially on appeal, for both distance selling ("internet") pharmacy applications and also "no significant change relocation" applications.
Looking at distance selling first, those who look through the NHSLA website may have noticed that more and more applications are being refused at appeal. I am pleased to say that Rushport has maintained its position of winning all our appeals, but every application other than those where we have advised the applicant has been refused in the last four or five months. There are rumours that the process of applying for distance selling contracts will change by March or April 2016 and some people have speculated that it may get more difficult to secure these contracts, so we are seeing a significant increase in demand for the service we provide.
We don't know what changes will be announced, but the sector is certainly under pressure and it remains to be seen if government will continue to allow all these new distance selling pharmacies to open whilst at the same time trying to cut pharmacy numbers. There certainly seems to be a lack of joined up thinking at the DoH on this.
Relocations of existing pharmacies have also undergone something of a revolution in 2015. For a year or two after the new Regulations came in to force there was a noticeable easing in the way the Regulations were applied and relocations became easier to secure. Then, after some more contentious cases, the NHSLA adopted a far stricter approach and has been applying the Regulations in a very restrictive way for a number of months now. Relocations that would have been approved a year ago are now being refused and one relocation of 134 metres was even refused even though it was along the same road with no barriers between the sites. The problem has come from the definition of "patient groups" with many applicants failing to provide the information that the NHSLA now considers necessary.
We are currently seeking judicial review on behalf of one client after their relocation application was refused and we expect the High Court will hear the case in late spring or early summer.
If you would like any advice on any of these issues then please go to the contact us section of the website and send an email to Conor Daly.