Behind the headlines: Pharmacy’s final (brief) day in court

“The appeals of both appellants are dismissed”: A brief, pithy conclusion to one of the longest-running sagas in recent community pharmacy history.

The Court of Appeal’s full determination has yet to be made public, but those seven words from Lord Justice Stephen Irwin are sufficient to quash a last-ditch attempt by PSNC and the NPA to overturn the Department of Health and Social Care’s 2016 decision to cut community pharmacy funding.

Esteemed members of the pharmacy press barely had time to get their pens out before the hearing concluded and it was time to scramble back to the office to type up their reports.

“No principle of law” that makes cuts unlawful

PSNC had appealed the May 2017 ruling on six grounds, including that then-health secretary Jeremy Hunt had failed to carry out a lawful consultation on the decision, while the NPA argued that the cuts contravened his Public Sector Equality Duties as some patient groups were likely to be disproportionately affected.

All grounds for appeal were dismissed, with Lord Justice Irwin, Lord Justice Hickinbottom and Sir Jack Beatson ruling that there was “no principle of law” that would mean the funding changes were not lawful.

However, they said, it was “regrettable that the process was not more open” – echoing Mr Justice Collins’ statement when giving his ruling on the initial case.

NPA: Time to build a positive relationship with DHSC

An NPA spokesperson was present at the hearing. When asked by PM whether the ongoing legal process had held up the necessary task of negotiating a new community pharmacy contract, the spokesperson said there was no question but that it had “put a strain on the relationship” with the DHSC.

However, the spokesperson said, the judicial review and subsequent appeal had “done what we intended”, namely shine a light on the decision-making process adopted by the DHSC in implementing the cuts.

The NPA hopes to build a positive relationship with the DHSC going forward, the spokesperson said.

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