Today’s Court of Appeal decision may not have been the one the sector was hoping for, but pharmacy bodies’ reactions are less pessimistic than expected, says The Pharmacist’s editor Beth Kennedy

The sector’s battle against the Government’s £321m cuts to community pharmacy funding has been a long one and – in light of today’s (23 August) Court of Appeal judgement – disappointing one.

Against the backdrop of an unseasonably grey and drizzly day, three Court of Appeal judges decided to uphold a High Court judgement that found the cuts were not unlawful, despite concerted legal challenges from the Pharmaceutical Services Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

But while PSNC and the NPA both described their ‘disappointment’ following the ruling, their overall messages were ones of hope and optimism.

PSNC’s new chief executive Simon Dukes mentioned his focus on the future and rebuilding a strong relationship with the Government, while NPA chair Nitin Sodha said the organisation was ‘eager to move to a new chapter’, highlighting pharmacy minister Matt Hancock’s recent pledge to invest in community pharmacy.

It would be remiss of me to neglect to mention the undeniably devastating effects of the cuts for many contractors, with some readers of The Pharmacist losing thousands of pounds as a result. It has been almost two years since the cuts kicked in, and today’s Court of Appeal judgement is certainly another blow for the sector in a series of disappointments.

But in the absence of the decision we were all hoping for, the optimism of community pharmacy’s representatives provides welcome pragmatism in the face of disappointment.

While we may currently not have the power to change community pharmacy funding, PSNC seems hopeful that this could change in the next round of negotiations, which it says it hopes will begin soon.

Among the daily slog of running a pharmacy, it’s easy to forget quite how much has happened because of the cuts over the past two years. There has been hardship, sure, but there has also been a huge amount of public and political support for pharmacy’s cause – the anti-cuts petition that garnered over two million signatures being the prime example of this.

While the future of the sector’s funding situation remains uncertain, I think it’s fair to say that pharmacy’s status as an important frontline healthcare provider has rarely been stronger. Let’s hope that this translates into a fairer funding package that the sector so desperately needs and deserves.

A better contract may not make up for the hardship of the past two years, but it would certainly help to repair the sector’s fraught relationship with the Government and finally allow pharmacy to reach its full potential.