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Pharmacy cuts

PSNC and NPA get green light to appeal court's decision on funding cuts

High court ss 17

Source: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock.com

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) have been given leave to appeal Justice Collins’ ruling that the £320m cuts were not unlawful

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) have been granted permission to appeal a High Court decision on the government’s cuts to the community pharmacy budget in England.

It follows an announcement in October 2016 by then pharmacy minister David Mowat that cuts of 4% to the pharmacy budget would be imposed in 2016–2017, with a further 3.4% in 2017–2018. The announcement prompted fears that thousands of community pharmacies would face closure.

The PSNC, England’s official negotiating body for community pharmacies, and the NPA, the trade association for independent community pharmacy in the UK, sought judicial review of the decision in December 2016, claiming there had been a flawed consultation, inadequate data and a failure to consider the needs of vulnerable people. The cases were heard together on 22 March.

But on 18 May 2017, Justice Collins ruled “with some regret” that the cuts, which totalled £320m, were “not so unfair as to amount to unlawfulness”.

He did, however, accept that some figures used by the Department of Health (DH) had been unreliable, adding that it was “regrettable” the DH had not informed the PSNC of the statistical methods used to calculate possible numbers of closures [of community pharmacies]. 

In granting leave to appeal, Collins said: “While naturally I am not persuaded that I failed in any of the respects alleged … I recognise the real effect of the cuts on pharmacies and the apparent reliance on the 15% [figure for operating margin) and the non-disclosure [by the DH). In addition, the impact of S.1c [the duty to reduce health inequalities] is of importance.”

Sue Sharpe chief executive of the PSNC

Source: PSNC

Sue Sharpe, chief executive of PSNC, says the organisation will do what it feels is right

Sue Sharpe, chief executive of PSNC, said: “We hope we will be able to have constructive discussions with DH and NHS England. Ideally, we would like those to mean we did not need to pursue an appeal, but PSNC will do what it feels is right to protect pharmacies and the patients they care for”.

NPA Chairman, Ian Strachan, said: “We continue to believe that constructive dialogue is the best way forward for all concerned. Given the criticism in the original verdict of the government’s approach, and following the appointment of a new ministerial team at the Department of Health, there is a window of opportunity to discuss a new and better way forward for the sector, the wider NHS and the patients we serve. It has always been — and remains — our preference to pursue our objectives through dialogue rather than through legal channels. However, we will do whatever is necessary in the interests of NPA members and their patients.”

No date has yet been fixed for the hearing in the Court of Appeal, but it is unlikely to be for several months.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203033

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