A second judicial review of the government’s decision to cut the community pharmacy budget in England by 12% between December 2016 and April 2017, with further cuts planned beyond this period, has been launched in the High Court by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
The NPA, which represents independent community pharmacies, argues that the Department of Health (DH) failed to consider the impact the cuts will have on people with legally protected characteristics — namely people with disabilities, black and minority ethnic populations and older people — who will be disproportionately affected by the government’s decision, as well as others living in the most deprived areas of England.
The legal move is an attempt to put a break on the cuts and comes nearly a fortnight after the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced similar action on the grounds that the government failed to consult properly about its decision.
Ian Strachan, chair of the NPA, says: “We have been driven to take this step by the intransigence of the DH in the face of widespread public concern about the approach they are taking to the vital front line service provided by local pharmacies.
“We see it as our public duty to try to preserve access to pharmaceutical care for those in most need.”
Despite the legal challenge, Strachan appealed to the DH to “step back from the precipice and enter into constructive discussions about a positive way forward for the sector and the NHS”.
The NPA – which is named as an “interested party” in the PSNC challenge – will not know whether it has been granted leave to proceed until at least the middle of January 2017, as the High Court is in recess until then.