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Community pharmacy market entry in England: a complicated process

In 1987, the NHS introduced ‎controls on where new pharmacies could open. Apart from some tweaking in 2005, the system remained largely unchanged for a quarter of a century. However, a completely new regime for new pharmacy contracts was introduced in England in 2012.

The revised NHS regulations are complicated — unnecessarily complicated in my view — and have been causing confusion among pharmacy owners and would-be pharmacy owners. It is not uncommon for applications to be refused for reasons that seem highly technical (for example, because the wrong application form has been used), or for objectors to lose appeal rights because representations they sent to NHS England are judged to have been irrelevant. We should not be surprised at these difficulties. As of 2005, there were 76 regulations. Now, despite the government’s professed dislike of red tape, there are 121 regulations, and there are at least nine different application forms.

Even though three years have passed since new regulations were introduced, pharmacists are still encountering difficulties. In recent months, the High Court has, for the first time, had to grapple with a case involving what happens when there is more than one applicant for the same location. And, in another case, involving the criteria for relocation High Court has just upheld a Family Health Services Appeal Unit decision to reject a relocation over a short distance from a Derby shopping area to the site of a large GP practice. The principle criterion for a successful relocation is that the new premises are not significantly less accessible for patient groups who use the existing pharmacy premises. Among other things, the High Court gave guidance on what constitutes a patient group, and held it was legitimate to reject the application because women seeking emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) at the existing pharmacy would be unwilling to go to the new location because they would have to pass a shelter for people with drug and alcohol problems, even though the existing pharmacy did not provide EHC as an NHS service.

Things are not getting any simpler, so my colleagues and I have published a guide to market entry in England (

We believe the guide will help pharmacists, including those looking for their first pharmacy, and some with long-established businesses who may feel like a rabbit caught in car headlights when an envelope from NHS England drops through their letter box, informing them that someone is seeking a pharmacy contract that, if granted, could have a devastating effect on their business. ‎

David Reissner


Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201545

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