The UK High Court will consider two legal actions against the government’s decision to cut community pharmacy funding in a hearing set for March 2017.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents pharmacy contractors in England, was granted leave in December 2016 for a judicial review of the secretary of state’s decision to implement cuts to community pharmacy funding, which was announced on 20 October 2016, on the grounds that a lawful consultation had not been carried out.
The PSNC’s case was originally due to be heard in the week commencing 6 February 2017, but the High Court will now consider it alongside a separate case which has been brought by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
The NPA, which represents independent pharmacies, applied for a judicial review on the basis that the Department of Health (DH) failed to consider properly “public sector equality duties” — the impact its cuts will have on older people, disabled people and people from black and minority ethnic communities. It is also based on the fact that the DH failed to appreciate community pharmacy’s wider healthcare role beyond dispensing.
A High Court judge decided last week that both actions will be considered during the same hearing, because of their similarities, although the two organisations will present separate cases.
Ian Strachan, chair of the NPA, says: “We are fighting this case to protect patients and communities in deprived areas, and to smoke out the flawed thinking behind the government cuts to pharmacy funding. Had the [DH] properly considered the impact of its cuts, it would have realised that the cuts will have a disproportionate effect on people with legally protected characteristics and those who live in the most deprived areas of England, where there is already a lack of NHS healthcare provision.
“It makes sense to consider the NPA and PSNC cases at the same hearing, given that we are seeking the same outcome, namely a review of the decision to cut pharmacy funding in the period 2016–2018,” he adds.
If either of the cases are successful, it is open to the judge to quash the DH funding decision.