Pitmedden dispensing preserved by NHS

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CAMPAIGNERS had reason to celebrate on Tuesday, after NHS Grampian agreed to retain dispensing services in Pitmedden.

The surgery had previously been under pressure to cease dispensing medicines after a new community pharmacy opened in Tarves. However, the decision on Tuesday means that the surgery will be allowed to continue dispensing medicines locally - and now campaigners have announced their intention to open their own, community-run pharmacy to preclude the possibility of a commercial pharmacy opening in the village.

The new trust - named ‘B999 Trust’ - is planned to operate from the surgery, with proceeds ploughed back into the local community.

Udny Community Council spokesman Brian McDougall, who has been heavily involved in the campaign to retain dispensing in Pitmedden, told the Times that the new community-owned pharmacy would preclude the possibility of a private pharmaceutical company opening an outlet in Pitmedden.

He said: “The NHS ruling recognised the difficulty faced by Pitmedden residents getting to Tarves and vice-versa. However, this left the possibility of a commercial pharmacy opening in Pitmedden. To pre-empt a private company opening, we’ve established a not-for-profit one which will pay wages to its workers, but with no profits for directors or shareholders.

“If we are successful in establishing this facility, one of the first things we would be looking to do would be to re-open Tarves surgery, and create a long-term solution to the area’s health needs.

He added that Haddo medical Group were aware of the B999 trust’s plans, and had been broadly supportive.

““The group have agreed to let us use the Pitmedden surgery as the basis for a new pharmacy. I would imagine that we would be utelising fully trained dispensing staff.

“We have yet to establish a definitive set-up cost. However, we have twenty days to prepare a business pln and secure sources of funding. The process of putting such a proposal through the planning system will not be quick - I’d imagine it will be summer next year at the earliest when the new pharmacy opens. Our immediate, short term aim would be to use the pharmacy’s profits to re-establish a doctor’s surgery in Tarves. We think it’s a good solution all round.

Mid Formartine councillor Paul Johnston, who is a director of the new trust, said that it was an excellent example of how social enterprises could work for communities.

“I’m fully behind this project - it’s a long term, financially sustainable solution. The directors represent three local communities, and we welcome the supportive statements we’ve had thus far from both local and national politicians.”

Local MP Malcolm Bruce said: “I welcome NHS Grampian’s considered judgement. The board has made the right decision for the community. I pay tribute to the hard-fought community campaign that has led to this outcome, and I hope that this will now pave the way for the re-opening of the surgery in Tarves.”

His sentiments were echoed by MSP Alison McInnes, who added: “I am glad that the board listened to the representations they have received from across the community. This is a victory for common sense.”