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Opposition on Two Fronts to Pharmacy at Health Centre

Wednesday 19 January 2011, 11:40
By Western Gazette

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Doctors hoping to take on the new Wincanton health centre have suffered a setback after an on-site pharmacy proposed at the development failed to win support.

Wincanton Town Council voted eight to one against plans to build a pharmacy at New Barns Farm, north of Wincanton Business Park in West Hill.

Doctors Iain Phillips, Helena Smith, Zoe Fox and practice manager Janet Loe formed a company to take on the project after developers pulled out in June.

Original plans were passed by South Somerset District Council with a condition no pharmacy would be built at the site. The revised plans show a pharmacy for dispensing and sale of medicines, providing a one-stop health stop.

Town and district councillor Colin Winder, who voted against the pharmacy at Area East committee in June, said: "When we agreed for the previous plans to be permitted it was clearly stated that the condition was that there should not be a pharmacy built on the site.

"Part of the conditions for the Morrisons site was that it would not have a dispensary so we can't justify offering permission for one to be built at the new health centre."

Councillor Bernard Pearson was the only member to vote in favour of a pharmacy, but he had reservations. He said: "A dispensary at the new health centre would be a good thing for the town but the concern is if we allow a chemist, where will it stop?

"There would be nothing to stop them from expanding and opening an opticians, for example, in future. The new plans show this is a business venture as much as it is providing a health service for the town."

Mayor Richard D'Arcy acknowledged it might be beneficial for people to be able to get their drugs from the health centre."

Rochford Garden Machinery, a nearby business, has opposed the plans in a letter to South Somerset District Council which will determine the application. It said: "The basis of our opposition is our concerns over road traffic safety along Dykes Way. The business park caters for significant activities of HGV vehicles delivering to ourselves and other businesses, which makes it dangerous for traffic to pass in Dykes Way."

The two-storey health centre is intended to replace the current one in Carrington Way.

Last year more than 1,000 people signed a petition opposing the move with concerns over reduced access for the elderly and a lack of car parking.

The Western Gazette attempted to contact the applicants without success. A statement on their website said: "We do not want to lose the opportunity to build these premises. We have approval from the primary care trust, a site and planning permission. The project finances will be more secure if we are able to include a pharmacy on site."

The primary care trust has confirmed funding for the project and the group hopes to have the project completed by the end of the year.

Article first published in the Western Gazette




Comments

johnsmith
Posts: 3
Comment
New Pharmacy
Reply #1 on : Wed January 19, 2011, 12:17:00
What a sensitive situation. Wincanton desparately needs and deserves a new and larger Health centre to cope with the existing expansion plans, and future planned expansion of the town. Of that there is now doubt, and we should be supporting our doctors wholeheartedly.

Because our town centre is so tight in terms of land or available appropriate buildings we have had to see it move to the New Barns site. I guess it isn't ideal, but it would seem to be the only place that it can be accommodated. Again I would encourage wholehearted support.

As far as having a pharmacy is concerned this opens a whole new can of worms. We currently have two pharmacies in the town centre. Both handle prescriptions, but apart from that they seem to have a different stock items available for purchase by the public.

What happens if the new Health Centre is given permission for a pharmacy? A new pharmacy situated in the ne Health Centre must surely take the vast majority of the prescription trade. If this is so, it would mean a serious reduction in the turnover of both town centre pharmacies. Could this lead to closure of at least one pharmacy.

When a pharmacy closes, what happens to that licence. Is that licence up for grabs by Morrison, Lloyds, or any other interested part?

If Boots keep both pharmacies open and a new licence is granted to the Health Centre, does that mean we now have three licences in Wincanton?

I suggest that this is such a sensitive issue because of the possible fallout, such as job losses in our town centre, shop closure(s), that it is vital that all concerned should be round a large table discussing this with a view to arriving at an agreement that helps the new health Centre, if possible, without causing damage to our town centre.

We have worked very hard over the years to get our town centre to the good state it's in today with few empty spaces. We don't want to be forced to take a backwards steps. We need everyone round the table working together for the betterment of all.

WBT would be glad to assist in any way we can. Lets get the best for Wincanton with minimum negative fallout.
James Phillips
Posts: 2
Comment
Re: Opposition on Two Fronts to Pharmacy at Health Centre
Reply #2 on : Thu January 20, 2011, 23:34:37
Colin Winder does fail to say what is wrong with a pharmacy on site. It seems a much more convenient proposal for the elderly, those who need it most.
Colin Winder
Posts: 1
Comment
Re: Opposition on Two Fronts to Pharmacy at Health Centre
Reply #3 on : Mon January 24, 2011, 20:57:38
The planning application that came before the SSDC Committee was for "A medical centre, three industrial units,four retail units, seven residential duplexes and associated works",a rather complicated site mixture. At that meeting I asked the representative of the Medical Centre if they intended to include a dispensary in their building and we were assured that there would be no dispensary. I voted against the total development as I felt the problems of parking and highways had not been addressed properly and this was clearly stated at the time. The final approval voted by the committee included a condition that none of the retail units would be used as a pharmacy.
In the discussions at the Town Council I pointed out that I would have difficulty with this particular application when it came to the District Council because of the above statements and imposed conditions. There was also the conditions which were placed on the Safeway/Morrison Supermarket which would have to be rescinded. My final decision on how I vote will be made at the Area East Committee when all the information is available.
I am sorry Mr Phillips, but it is time you came down from your ivory tower and joined the real world. Then you can tell us your connection with Wincanton and where you stand on its future.
Colin Winder
James Phillips
Posts: 2
Comment
Re: Opposition on Two Fronts to Pharmacy at Health Centre
Reply #4 on : Wed January 26, 2011, 20:23:43
Firstly, my connection to Wincanton is quite simple – I live there most of the year and always have done. As for my view on its future, I think it should a liberal democrat area, and hence I campaigned actively for the liberal democrats in Wincanton at the last election (therefore showing that my interest in local politics is rather long term).

Now, I didn’t actually state whether I agree or disagree with you about whether there should be a development there, so I need not clarify that. My point was simply that if the health service hub of wincanton is to move, it would make sense for the dispensary for pharmaceuticals to move with it. This ensures that those most likely to use the health centre – the injured or elderly – do not have to make multiple stops on a visit.

Now, I don’t know the facts about whether or not they denied intending to build a dispensary. However, both this and the point about Morrison’s supermarket seem to be of slight irrelevance. Even if the council declined to allow them a pharmacy, there is no harm in admitting ones mistakes after they have been made. It seems that the over arching issue here is that of patient welfare, and it is the moral duty of the council to take the course of action that will ensure the best care for the vulnerable instead of becoming distracted by bureaucratic technicalities.

James Phillips
The “Ivory Tower"
davidsmith
Posts: 1
Comment
One Rule to Ring Them All
Reply #5 on : Thu January 27, 2011, 09:37:53
I'll start with a disclaimer too: I have no formed opinion on this matter, aside from the obvious that James and others have pointed out - it does make sense for a pharmaceutical outlet to follow the Health Centre, wherever it should move.

However, with regard to the Morrisons dilemma; I might add that perhaps there isn't a 'mistake' to admit on the part of the council, but rather a simply truth that the decision to deny them a pharmacy was made at a time when there wasn't a health centre just across the road.

Once the health centre is moved the situation is different, damage to the High Street is done and damage left to be done by the potential transference of a pharmacy must be weighed against damage to the overall health service in this town.

While I'd also add, in response to Bernard Pearson's statement about drawing lines and such - I'd like to think that in any scenario the Council would feel confident enough in their group decision to be able to justify it when scrutinised, and should therefore draw any lines they decide necessary regardless of how biased/weighted they appear to the ignorant bystander. In this case it was possible the line might be drawn in a postion that could be interpretted as less favourable to Morissons, though perhaps doing so might cause more serious damage than a non-councillor such as I would be in a position to foresee.

Ultimately it seems that the Council vote was 8-1 against including a pharmacy in the package, a vote conducted between councillors who are, on average, considerably more senior than James or I, and perhaps who possess an even clearer perspective on the issues faced by the elderly and the infirm with regard to the acquisition of pharmaceuticals in Wincanton.
johnsmith
Posts: 3
Comment
Peace in our time
Reply #6 on : Thu January 27, 2011, 15:10:17
The new Health Centre is badly needed. Everyone agrees. There wasn’t enough land or suitable premises in the town centre, so we had to accept the new site. Let’s get by that one.

The existing Health Centre doesn’t have an in-house pharmacy. Why does the new Health Centre need one. James’s statement that it would be great for patients is totally true. That’s a no brainer. It would also bring a profitable income for the Health Centre that doesn’t currently exist. That has to be a winner for the Health Centre.

That seems so clear cut, so what’s all the fuss about the town centre? Well, we need to remember that the town centre will suffer damage when the Health Centre moves to the new site. The folks who visit the current Health Centre will also take the opportunity to visit and support our local shops. It’s very convenient. Visiting the new Health Centre makes supporting our town centre more of a chore. Some will decide not to, and just go home. Our town centre traders will suffer.

But now we need to look at the extra damage to the town centre if an in-house pharmacy is accepted. I am sure that an in-house pharmacy will probably attract by far the lion’s share of the prescription trade. This finance is currently spent in our town centre pharmacies. When this income is redistributed to the new health Centre the existing pharmacies don’t have any other way to take up the slack. If the new health Centre stocks other items other than prescription medicines, the damage will be even bigger. Loss of this important revenue could possibly mean the closure of at least one of the existing pharmacies with the resultant job losses.

Sadly we do need to take legal precedent into account. Allowing a new licence for the new Health Centre will probably mean multiple applications from Morrison’s and other organisations looking to win a slice of the pie. Refusing them would be a nightmare for our councils. They would have legal precedent on their side. If a deal can be done with Boots to move one of the existing pharmacies to the new Health Centre that could be a compromise that would help to minimise the damage to the town centre. I like the idea of fair competition with different pharmacies, but unfortunately Boots bought them out, so we have to work with what we have. For the Council to allow the current application is like shooting themselves in the foot.

I appeal to all concerned to look at the bigger picture, and work together for the betterment of our community as a whole. All our actions and words come with knock-on effects. In this instance allowing this application comes with clear and major costs to our town centre. It has taken a lot of hard work to get our town centre to a sound and healthy place. We can’t afford to see more damage that sends us backwards.

James is also on the ball with his statement about “admitting when we get things wrong”. It seems to me that the first requirement for any political animal is to hold fast to the party agenda and support all party decisions, even when they are wrong. This causes so many problems at all levels of community. Seems that politicians cause more problems than they actually solve. I’m with you on this one James.

A good start to this would be to reverse the daft plan to introduce parking charges to Wincanton and Castle Cary. Yet another plan that can only cause damage to already hard pressed town centres.
Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 15:10:51 by johnsmith  
Nick Colbert
Posts: 1
Comment
Just a thought
Reply #7 on : Thu January 27, 2011, 16:37:11
Having recently completed a survey on concerns in Wincanton, the concern that was most commented on, which is nothing to do with the district council, was the moving of the health centre out of the centre of the town. At the end of the day doctors run their business and make the decisions on where it should be located, but the council has plans to multi story Carrington Way car park at some point. It is also the preffered town centre development area according to the GVA Grimley report. Is there any prospect on a new purpous built health centre being incorporated within that development? thereby keeping it in the centre of the town by the car park. Just a thought.
Janet Loe
Posts: 1
Comment
Clarification on what was said
Reply #8 on : Fri January 28, 2011, 14:32:51
We would like to clarify exactly what was said about the pharmacy and how the situation has changed.

Up until the point when the planning application was approved, we were working with a third party developer. This meant that we had no control over whether or not there would be a pharmacy on site as we would not own the building. We said, and we were very careful to be clear about this, that we had no intention of becoming a dispensing practice and this is still the case. This was the only promise we could give and we stand by this promise. We also said that we would support an application for a separate pharmacy on site if there were to be one.

The situation has now changed in that the third party developer pulled out of the project not long after the original planning application was approved, potentially jeopardising the whole development. We took over the project thereby giving us control. Being mindful of what patients had told us was their main concern about the move, we have now put in an application to include a separate pharmacy on site. This still means that we will not be a dispensing practice and we will not "own" the pharmacy. We have listened to our patients’ feedback and responded as we felt was best.

We are obviously disappointed that the Town Council have not supported us in providing what our patients say they want.
johnsmith
Posts: 3
Comment
In-House Pharmacy.
Reply #9 on : Mon January 31, 2011, 16:46:38
Thank you Janet for clarifying the position a little more. I think that it is important to keep everyone up to date. I guess my position can be seen as the typical business position, and at odds with the best interests of patient care. That isn't my intention.

Taken in isolation the approval of this application is a great idea and to be supported in the best interests of patients, and the Health Centre.

However, at the risk of sounding like a broken record. I believe that our town centre is about to suffer a triple whammy that will clearly damage both the business community and the town centre residents.

The first whammy is the move itself. The Health Centre has a large footfall on a daily basis. Albeit that your clients are visiting because of ailments, they do support the town centre businesses whilst visiting the Health Centre. That will be greatly reduced.

The second whammy would be the introduction of an in-house pharmacy. Both town centre pharmacies rely on prescription business for a large portion of their turnover. Losing this turnover could clearly have serious consequences for them, and lead to the closure of at least one unit. This would be no small setback for our town centre.

The third whammy has no relation to the Health Centre move. With the possible introduction of parking charges at both the Carrington Way and Memorial Car Parks I can easily see more residents shopping out of town.

So whilst I would love to give absolute support for the in-house pharmacy I am torn because of the possible costs/damage to the town centre. I would appeal to the partners to see if a compromise solution can be found.

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