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High Court’s decision on funding cuts a ‘devastating blow’ for community pharmacy

By Neil Trainis

PUBLISHED: May 18, 2017 | UPDATED: May 18, 2017

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John D’Arcy, the managing director of Numark, has said a high court judge’s decision not to quash the government’s community pharmacy funding cuts is a “devastating blow” for the sector.

Although Lord Justice Collins’ concluded that the Department of Health’s approach to its efficiency measures, which involved a two-year cut to community pharmacy’s budget, was “less than satisfactory,” he decided against overturning the cuts.

In his judgment he was critical of the government’s failure to properly assess the impact of its cuts and warned that ministers would in future need to more carefully consider the effect of their health policies on deprived communities.

Yet in Lord Justice Collins’ view the PSNC and National Pharmacy Association’s argument that the government had not acted properly, through the launch of an adequate consultation or impact assessment respectively, did not mean it had acted unlawfully.

D’Arcy (pictured) said community pharmacy had been let down by the legal system as well as the government but urged pharmacists to ensure their business models “fit in with the cuts.”

“The verdict is a devastating blow for community pharmacy. We were under no illusion that the outcome would be a reversal in the proposed cuts; indeed, we believed that the high court would accept that the consultation process was fundamentally flawed,” he said.

“However, it is disappointing to say the least that the case has been dismissed. The Department of Health has failed to adequately disclose its approach to the cuts and despite recognising pharmacies and GP surgeries would be under pressure, and patients are likely to have reduced access to care, the judge felt there was no other course of action appropriate or justified.

“We have been failed by government and the judicial system and it is clear that whilst this was not the desired outcome, more should be done within the sector to recognise the challenges community pharmacy faces. The fight for the future of community pharmacy must continue.

“Community pharmacies now need to look at how their existing business models fit in with the cuts and adapt their approach to ensure they continue to deliver exceptional standards of care to local communities, whilst remaining profitable.”

Sandra Gidley, chair of the English Pharmacy Board, urged the government, which looks likely to remain Conservative after the general election, to make public its thoughts on the Murray Review.

“The government is not making the most of what community pharmacy has to offer. Without exception, reports on community pharmacy highlight the huge potential for improving care of patients with long term conditions and supporting public health,” she said.

“As a matter of urgency after the general election the new government needs to respond to the recommendations of the Murray Review and take forward a positive plan for community pharmacy.“