After almost a two-month wait, English community pharmacists yesterday (18 May) finally received an answer to one of the most important questions facing the sector in recent memory.
Namely, a judgement was handed down on cases brought by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), both aiming to topple the Department of Health's (DH) cuts to funding during a three-day court battle in March.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the answer we'd all been hoping for, and Mr Justice Collins – the judge presiding over the case – 'regretfully' ruled that the DH's cuts were not unlawful, thereby allowing them to continue as planned.
Naturally, the sector's reaction to the news has been one of disappointment and anger, with some pharmacists taking to Twitter to express their frustration at the judgement as it unfolded.
I can appreciate that Mr Justice Collins's decision is yet another kick in the teeth for a sector that is still feeling the sting of its role being so misunderstood by the politicians in power that its lawyers took pains to criticise pharmacy's retail offering during the court battle – noting that Boots in Waterloo sells sandwiches.
But as the dust settles on the judge's decision, I truly believe that the sector can find a few glimmers of hope to hold on to. For me, the pharmacy's war on cuts has given credence to two beliefs that I have long held dear.
Firstly, that community pharmacy has real power when it bands together for a common cause. Never in all my time as a pharmacy journalist has the sector seemed so united as it did when fighting the cuts, with pharmacy organisations, its trade press and individual pharmacists all banding together against the funding drop.
This combined power didn't go unnoticed, with several prominent politicians throwing their weight behind the cause and raising the sector's profile in the process.
Just imagine what community pharmacy could achieve if it were to throw the same level of passion behind new projects designed to move the profession forward.
Secondly, and more importantly, the cuts battle gave real insight into just how much patients value what community pharmacists do. After all, a petition against the cuts drawn up by the NPA became the most popular health petition in history, garnering over a million signatures – most of them from patients.
This, surely, should be the take-home message for pharmacists.
Onwards and upwards.
To make sure that you’re getting support on how to earn as much funding as possible during these challenging times, come to the independent pharmacy event of the year, Pharmacy Forward on Sunday, 2 July 2017 at the London Olympia.
Let us know what you think about the judicial review outcome on Twitter with @Pharmacist_News.