High Court rules that pharmacy relocation would inconvenience women seeking emergency contraception

A Superdrug store sign

The High Court has ruled against plans to relocate a Derby pharmacy because of the potential impact on women seeking emergency hormonal contraception.

The dispute centred around plans to move a city centre branch of Superdrug, currently located in the Intu Derby shopping centre, to a GP surgery 600 metres away.

The move was blocked by the NHS, partly on grounds that the surgery would be less accessible to women seeking emergency contraception. An NHS panel also pointed out that the most obvious route to the relocated pharmacy would take patients past a night shelter, which prompted concerns that some individuals using the shelter “might indulge in antisocial behaviour or begging”, potentially deterring women from accessing the pharmacy.

The company behind the planned move — Community Pharmacies (UK) Ltd — challenged the NHS’s decision before Mr Justice Langstaff[1]
. But the judge said the NHS panel was entitled to take into account the particular needs of women seeking emergency hormonal contraception. Those accustomed to getting the “morning after pill” from Superdrug were “a patient group” to whom the relocated pharmacy might be “significantly less accessible”, he said.

Community Pharmacies’ challenge was dismissed.

Commenting of the ruling, David Reissner, a partner who specialises in pharmacy law at Charles Russell Speechlys in London, says this is the first time that the High Court has considered the meaning of “patient groups” and what NHS England should consider when it decides whether or not to grant applications for relocation.

“If any one group finds the new location significantly less accessible, the application must be refused, as it was here,” Reissner explains.

References

[1]  R (on Application of Community Pharmacies [UK] Limited) v The National Health Service Litigation Authority. Case number: CO/6383/2015

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2016, Vol 297, No 7891;297(7891):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201414