Regulations that govern the granting of new NHS pharmacy contracts in Wales look set to be amended by a new Bill being debated in the Welsh Parliament on 9 June 2015. The Bill, which also introduces changes to how e-cigarettes are regulated, will bring control-of-entry regulations more into line with those in place in England.
At present, the issuing of NHS contracts for new pharmacies is done according to the “necessary or expedient test” — essentially, only allowing a new pharmacy to open if patients are deemed not to be able to access prescriptions quickly enough. A Welsh Government spokesperson says the Bill proposes replacing this test with a system where health boards would be required to produce a pharmaceutical needs assessment, taking into account a wide range of pharmacy services – not just the dispensing of prescriptions.
Where existing pharmacies fail to meet the needs of their communities, potential pharmacy contractors would be entitled to submit applications for a new contract. Local health boards may also invite potential contractors to apply.
The Bill also proposes that regulations for the use, handling and supply of electronic cigarettes be brought into line with those for other nicotine products. This would mean that pharmacies could not supply them to persons under 18 years of age unless licensed products were being issued. It would also restrict the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces.
The Public Health Bill was laid in parliament on 8 June 2015, and is likely to become law in the spring of 2016.