People are having to queue outside for up to an hour to pick up prescriptions in a Midlothian town, it has been claimed.
The leader of Midlothian council raised concerns over people’s ability to collect their medicine after a bid to open a new pharmacy in a neighbouring community was rejected.
And he asked health chiefs how he was supposed to tell people to go and visit a pharmacist instead of a doctor for advice if they were unable to see one.
Councillor Derek Milligan told a meeting of Midlothian Integration Joint Board that big pharmacy companies had “rolled out” senior lawyers to prevent a new chemist opening in Rosewell.
Mr Milligan said the Lothian Pharmacy Practices Committee had refused to approve the licence after they were told there was adequate provision in neighbouring Bonnyrigg.
He was referring to an application by Ashfaq Ahmed, which had been supported by MIdlothian and Musselburgh MSP Colin Beattie, local councillors and residents, to open in the new Rosewell community hub.
Mr Milligan said: “There are queues of up to an hour outside existing pharmacies in Bonnyrigg.
“Decisions like this have a huge impact on our signposting and the public when we are telling them to go and see a pharmacist.”
He told the meeting that he had seen “big companies rolling out their senior lawyers to try and keep other pharmacies from opening.”
Mr Milligan said: “What should we do if we are telling people not to go to their GP if it is very minor and they cannot get to see a pharmacist or a GP.”
He added: “The pharmacy in Rosewell had massive support publicly and politically when it was refused.”
Chief officer of the integration board Morag Barrow told the virtual meeting she had held discussions with the director of pharmacies at NHS Lothian about the issue.
She said: “I do share concerns over how some of the smaller more independent companies could open up pharmacies.”
During his licence application meeting in October, Mr Ahmed had told the committee there was no pharmacy in the village of Rosewell and the nearest one was more than two miles away.
He added a limited bus service and delays in collecting prescriptions made it a long journey for people.
He said: “For example, a bus departing Rosewell at 9am will arrive at Bonnyrigg at around 9.15am.
“With the walk to the pharmacies and waiting times for prescriptions it is unlikely that a pharmacy visit could be achieved in time to get the next bus.
“The likelihood is that the patient would catch the following bus home at 10am.
“Add to this the average walking distance to a bus stop from a patient’s house and back, and also the bus waiting times, then the total duration of the journey will exceed 90 minutes and could easily be longer for the elderly or parents travelling with a pram.”
Jenny Long, director of primary care, NHS Lothian said: “An application for a new pharmacy in Rosewell was considered in October 2021 by the Pharmacy Practices Committee (PPC) in line with national guidance.
“At that time, the PPC concluded there was no evidence of inadequacy in pharmaceutical services provided in or to the defined neighbourhood so the application was not granted.
“An appeal was lodged against this decision and the National Appeal Panel upheld the PPC decision as they found no reasonable grounds of appeal.”