The legal challenges to the government’s decision to cut the community pharmacy budget in England, which was first announced in December 2015, are due to begin in the High Court on 21 March 2017.
The judicial reviews, which are being sought by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the official negotiating body for community pharmacy in England, and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), the trade association for independent community pharmacy in the UK, are expected to last three days.
The PSNC is challenging the government on the grounds that it did not go through the proper process before deciding to cut the community pharmacy budget by £170m for 2016–2017.
The NPA is arguing that the government failed in its duty to consider the needs of vulnerable people, communities and groups in society which have protected characteristics.
On 20 March 2017, Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the PSNC, said that the organisation regretted that it had to take this “unprecedented step”.
However, she added: “Over many years our negotiations were characterised by robust exchanges and a willingness on both sides to listen and consider each other’s views and analysis, and we were able to reach agreement.
“This changed last year and the [Department of Health] would not engage with us constructively on the most important elements of the 17 December 2015 letter.”
The letter set out proposed changes to the sector and revealed that the community pharmacy budget was being cut by £170m in 2016–2017.
Stephen Fishwick, head of communications at the NPA, says: “The cuts have been in place since 1 December 2016 and are now starting to have an impact on community pharmacy’s bottom line.”
The purpose of the NPA’s challenge is to expose the flaws in the government’s thinking and mind-set about its funding decision, he says.