More than 3,000 residents had signed a petition calling for a new pharmacy in the high street in addition to the existing Lloyds Pharmacy on the other side of the town, which campaigners said many elderly people struggled to access.
Experienced pharmacy worker Zohib Sheikh lodged an application to open an in-town pharmacy last year, which was backed by MP Nick Herbert – but this was rejected by NHS England.
He appealed the decision but following a four-hour long hearing in May, the appeal panel also decided to refuse the application, signalling the end of the road for campaigners.
Colin Stepney, who had led the campaign alongside June Barker, said: “We were extremely disappointed but we weren’t terribly surprised, we knew it was going to be a battle.”
While he knew there were many rules and regulations around permitting new pharmacies to open, he said: “We just hoped we would be able to make a special case for Arundel, it’s very unusual with a small population but a big tourist town.”
Keeping the momentum going on the campaign for three years had been ‘hard work’ but they had been ‘determined to see it through’, Mr Stepney said.
“We know that we did everything we possibly could to succeed,” he said.
“At least we gave it our best shot – we couldn’t have done any more.”
He added that the situation was also ‘very disappointing’ for Mr Sheikh, who had put his own money and time into the application.
The decision means that no one else will be able to apply for a license for five years.
Nick Herbert MP described the decision to refuse the pharmacy as ‘quite wrong’ and blamed ‘bureaucratic regulations’.
He said: “I am extremely disappointed by this decision which I think is quite wrong.
“Arundel needs an additional, in-town pharmacy.
“The community strongly supported it, the public demand is clearly there and someone wants to run it, yet bureaucratic regulations prevent it.
“The whole system is wrong, and I now intend to take the matter up with ministers and urge reform.”
Explaining the reasons for refusing the application, the NHS Resolution Primary Care appeals committee said in its decision notice that there was already a ‘reasonable choice’ with regard to obtaining pharmaceutical services in the town.
It said there was no evidence of people sharing a protected characteristic having difficulty in accessing these services nor that innovative approaches would be taken with regard to the delivery of the proposed new services.