The Court of Appeal has upheld the Government’s cuts to community pharmacy funding following a legal battle with the sector’s representative bodies.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) in May appealed against last year’s High Court ruling that the cuts were not unlawful.
But three Court of Appeal judges upheld that decision today (23 August), meaning that current funding arrangements will stay in place until PSNC negotiates a new contract with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
According to PSNC, in dismissing the appeals, the judges said there is ‘no principle of law’ that would make the cuts unlawful even if pharmacy closures were expected.
PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said: ‘I have heard about the very great personal costs of this as you struggle with the current financial pressures, so I know that you will be disappointed by today’s news.
‘For me, the priority has always been to focus on the future and on getting the best possible deal for patients and community pharmacies when our negotiations with HM Government begin.’
NPA chair Nitin Sodha said the lobbying group is ‘naturally disappointed’ by the decision, but stressed it is ‘eager to move to a new chapter in which there are urgent discussions about fulfilling community pharmacy’s potential to improve the nation’s health’.
A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the Government’s position on this case.
‘The Department remains committed to working collaboratively with the sector to determine arrangements for community pharmacy in the future.’
History of legal battle
The saga began in October 2016, when the Government imposed a funding package that saw community pharmacy’s funding reduced by £321m over two years.
PSNC and the NPA mounted separate legal challenges to the decision in late 2016.
The NPA’s case against the cuts argued that the DHSC failed to ‘properly consider the impact of the cuts in deprived areas’, whereas PSNC’s case argued that the Health secretary failed to carry out a lawful consultation on the cuts.
Both cases were heard together in the High Court in March last year. Judge Mr Justice Collins ‘regretfully’ decided that the cuts were not unlawful and therefore could not be quashed.