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The struggle for rural pharmacy in Scotland

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Dunkeld, Highland Perthshire - one of my favourite parts of the world.Rural healthcare is a major issue in Scotland. Whether it's issues arising from telehealth to the provision of palliative care, general rural healthcare is an issue of major debate north of the border.

As far as pharmacy is concerned, much has been made in the news recently about a series of proposals across Scotland for potential new pharmacies to open up in rural areas. Recently on BBC Radio Scotland, Sanjay Majhu from the Apple Pharmacy group, stated that he wouldn't be "bullied" with regards to proposals for a new pharmacy for Castletown in Caithness. 

And a few months ago during the summer, a row began to emerge over proposals for a new pharmacy to open in Benbecula, located in the Western Isles. Dr Kate Dawson stated to BBC Radio Scotland back then that there would be job losses if dispensing services moved away from the GP surgery. Last week, Local Pharmacies Limited were refused permission to open a new pharmacy there.

A few years ago, a similar kind of row emerged in the north of Fife over the potential opening of a pharmacy in Leuchars in the north of Fife. But since then, a pharmacy has existed in the town after it was given the green light by NHS Fife.

I think pharmacy will find that the prospect of providing pharmaceutical services in many rural areas, not just in Scotland but in other parts of the UK and beyond, isn't the easiest thing to achieve. Dispensing services and other kinds of services provided for by doctors and other forms of healthcare provision are valued enormously by residents who have been reliant upon them for a long time and it's not easy claiming a share of the healthcare provision in those areas.

Some who may feel a sense of apathy may cry foul and claim that pharmacy is being unfairly dismissed and not being given the full opportunity to explain how it can improve the provision of healthcare in rural services. But the reality is that pharmacy will have to reassert itself and demonstrate without ambiguity that it can become a major player when it comes to providing an excellent quality of healthcare to communities. And, by all means, respect of the opinions of others is essential. If rural communities feel satisfied with the provision of healthcare they are receiving then so be it.

On a completely separate note though, what I shall never accept though, however, is that pharmacists are somewhat 'poor' replacements for doctors when it comes to providing healthcare services. Such a hypothetical assertion is a glowing example of a poorly devised, unfair and biased judgement against the profession. We work incredibly hard over the years at university and throughout our careers to excel when it comes to providing quality healthcare advice for patients.

However, I think we as a pharmacy profession, as a whole, have made ourselves liable to such assertions being made against us because we just don't seem to be doing well enough to consistently promote ourselves to the wider public for all the right reasons. The reason I believe such a negative reaction has existed towards our profession in many of the cases regarding proposals for new pharmacies across rural communities is because we need to be doing far better at marketing ourselves for all the good that we can do for communities across Scotland and beyond. Also, we need to be stretching beyond the boundaries (I have made past blog entries about how this can be done).

There are many individuals, groups and organisations within pharmacy, especially in Scotland, who are doing a sterling job in promoting everything that is good about pharmacy. But we need much more support and more individuals to speak up for pharmacy and promote the profession.

Because, technically, we are all ambassadors for our profession. 

Story regarding Castletown pharmacy - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-25086775

Story regarding a potential new pharmacy for Benbecula plus refusal for new pharmacy in Benbecula (in 2nd of two links) - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-23085980 and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-25032176 

Story regarding Leuchars Pharmacy - http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/news/local-headlines/dismay-at-leuchars-pharmacy-green-light-1-161427

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