Pharmacy bodies lose final legal challenge to fight pharmacy cuts

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee lost its Court of Appeal judgment on 23 August 2018, meaning that the cuts to community pharmacy in 2016 were not unlawful.

Sandra Gidley

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said it gained “useful insight” into government thinking despite losing its legal attempt to force a judicial review of cuts to the community pharmacy budget.

The Court of Appeal ruled on 23 August 2018 that appeals by both the PSNC and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) against a previous High Court decision rejecting their applications for a judicial review were not upheld.

The decision, from three Court of Appeal judges, means that government cuts imposed in October 2016 will remain in place until a new community pharmacy contract is agreed.

But Bharat Patel, vice-chair of the PSNC, said the long legal process had helped to highlight “important ways” in which future consultations on community pharmacy funding should be carried out.

“Through the judicial review process, we have also gained some useful insight into Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) thinking and the challenges that are ahead for all of us as the NHS tries to set out a ten-year plan that meets rising demand and embraces innovations such as digital models of care,” he said.

Patel added that the PSNC was now focused on “working as closely as possible with DHSC, NHS England and wider government to find ways to develop pharmacies that benefit pharmacies and their patients, while helping to meet government objectives”.

The PSNC said it expected negotiations for a new 2018/2019 community pharmacy contract to “begin shortly” and it said that meetings with senior officials and government ministers were ”already in the diary”.

The Appeal Court’s judgment echoed the High Court’s ruling on the judicial review application from 2017, which said that aspects of the government’s decision-making process around the funding cuts were “regrettable”.

NPA chair, Nitin Sodha, said: “The legal challenges flushed out significant information about how ministers arrived at highly controversial decisions. This process has thereby served an important purpose in terms of achieving transparency and accountability. So we can now hope that future decisions will be taken with fuller consideration for their consequences — including the consequences for vulnerable patients, deprived communities and independent pharmacies.”

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “We hope that the government will be able to move forward with the national pharmacy bodies to deliver on community pharmacy’s potential to improve the care of patients.”

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, said: “The impact of pharmacy funding cuts has already been significant, and is likely to continue to affect all parts of the sector in the months and years ahead. Although the outcome of the judicial review today is disappointing, we should now be looking to the future.”


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2018, Vol 301, No 7917;301(7917):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205358

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