Stornoway, 14 October 1912 - Roderick Smith

12.947. (Chairman.) You are a chemist in the town of Stornoway, at 50-54 Point Street ?

12,948. Have you been long here ?
—Twelve years.

12,949. What do you say about the natives of Stornoway, as to the efficiency of the present medical service?
—In regard to the supply of medicines, of course, the doctors do all their own dispensing in Stornoway and the chemist gets very little. We have to rely on the sale of patent medicines and the little family remedies, and when a doctor finds he has not got an expensive drug or an unusual drug he sends to the chemist for it. The same thing is to be said about the Parish Councils. Throughout most parts of Scotland it is the chemists who have to supply all the drugs for the Parish Councils. The medicines required here for the Parish Council are in the hands of the doctors. The doctor used to get just his salary, which formerly included the supply of medicines, but now he gets a salary for his medical attendance and he charges the medicines extra. That gives him a free hand. We, as chemists in the town and parish, maintained at the time of this change that the supplying of the medicines should be put up to competition the same as is done throughout the country.

12,950. Does every doctor in the island do his own dispensing ?
—Yes, without exception. In some cases where the patient demands it, or for some special reason a prescription may be given.

12,951. The doctors get their drugs from wholesale people ?
—Mostly. Sometimes they come to us for some very necessary drugs.

12,952. What are the public reasons that occur to you against doctors dispensing their own drugs ?
—They are permitted to do so, but should not, as the man who signs the death certificate should not also do the dispensing for the patient.

12,953. But from the public point of view; what are the reasons against the doctors dispensing their own drugs ?
—In the first instance, their supply is usually only a limited one, and in a doctor’s surgery there is probably, without any exaggeration, about a couple of dozen of bottles, and he is I think, inclined to select his drugs from these bottles. They may be suitable for the occasion, and there may be occasions when he may know that there is a better drug, and he is driven back to the medicines he has on the shelf. When he writes out his prescription and sends it to the chemist the chemist who is compelled to keep a good stock must dispense the prescription exactly as it is written. I myself have had friends in the trade who come in and see my place, and they, without exception, say it is unusual to see such a stock in a small town like Stornoway, as it is exceptional to carry the stock we do, when we do not get the local dispensing. We try to meet the public wants as much as possible. Without dispensing,
on the other hand, our efforts are limited.

12,954. Another chemist gave us evidence and said that when a chemist got a prescription he acted as a check on the doctor ?
—Yes. I was going to point that out. When a doctor does his own dispensing it must be done hastily or else the diagnosis must be done quickly. Something probably suffers when he is in a hurry. When the doctor writes out his prescription it is carried to the chemist, and the doctor sees the medicine afterwards when he goes back to the patient.

12,955. The doctor may never see the medicine afterwards ?
—Most of them do.

12,956. Is there any other point you want to put before us ?
—You mean from the chemists’ point of view?

12,957. From the other side, is it not a great convenience for the people in these outlying districts that the doctors should keep medicines?
—Yes, my reference is more to places like the parish. of Stornoway where we have more chemists in business than doctors. There is one six miles away, in Point district, and there is no doctor in that district at all

12,958. Have you anything to say about the general conditions of the medical service; have you anything to say about the doctors overtaking the medical attendance on the people of Lewis ?
—The parishes are really too large in my opinion. I have knowledge of the people in all the different districts. There are districts where the people seldom get a doctor to come to them because the doctor is so far away. When they come to town they go into the chemist’s shop and ask for something for the patient. The chemist should not always supply them, as the case may be a serious one and he does not know the state of the patient. He sometimes gives what he thinks is safest for the case: sometimes advises them to see a doctor. There is a parish district in Stornoway, the Tolsta district where there was a complaint about the medical service

12,959. You think there are not enough doctors for the population—I mean in regard to the distances?
—That is so.

12,960. There is not a living to be made for any more  doctors ?
—I doubt if there is a living to be made, as  doctors’ livings go.

12,961. (Dr Miller.) I rather gather that you are quite satisfied that the rural doctors—the doctors right away in  the remote parts—should possess drugs of their own?
—They should have permission to dispense, because there is not always a living for a chemist in those remote parts. It is quite possible that there is a living to be made in these out-of-the-way places—a better living, maybe, than many of the chemists make in the town.

12,962. We had evidence that there was a chemist in the island of Bernera; is that man In making a living?
—No ; he does not make a living from his chemistry.

12,963. You have three chemists in Stornoway?
—There are three in the parish. One of them gave up business in the town, but he is now in a village six miles out, in the Point district.'

12,964. Can you account for the fact that the doctors in the town of Stornoway prefer to dispense their own medicines? I don’t see that it can either pay them that it is a pleasure ?
—It must be from the point of view of profit. It cannot be from any other point of view.

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