A judicial review against Government cuts to English community pharmacy funding will be heard in the High Court this week.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) confirmed that they would take legal action against the cuts - which total over £200m over two years - at the end of last year.

The hearing will start on Tuesday 21 March at 10:30am and is expected to last three days. The two cases being brought by the PSNC and the NPA will be heard together.

The DH said: 'We will seek to persuade the Court that the case put forward by the PSNC and NPA is without merit. It is not appropriate to comment further while the legal process is ongoing.'

PSNC was granted permission for the judicial review from the High Court in December last year. Its case says that the Department of Health (DH) 'failed to carry out a lawful consultation' on the proposals for community pharmacy.

The NPA’s case is focused on arguments that Secretary of State, David Mowat, 'failed to properly discharge his Public Sector Equality Duties' and 'failed to appreciate community pharmacy’s wider healthcare role'.

The PSNC said: 'It is not helpful to speculate on what the outcome [of the case] may be at this stage.'

An unprecedented step

Sue Sharpe, PSNC Chief Executive said: 'PSNC very much regrets that it became necessary to take this unprecedented step. We have always sought to work constructively and collaboratively with the NHS and Department of Health.

'Over many years our negotiations were characterised by robust exchanges and a willingness on both sides to listen and consider each others’ views and analysis, and we were able to reach agreement.

'This changed last year and the Department would not engage with us constructively on the most important elements of the 17 December 2015 letter.'

The PSNC will focus on the hearing this week, it said, to ensure that their case is accurately represented. It will then issue a further statement after the proceedings.

Impact on society

The National Pharmacy Association's (NPA) case says that the DH’s decision to cut the community pharmacy budget was taken 'unlawfully' because it 'failed to properly consider' the impact of the cuts on the poorest in society.

It has also argued that the DH did not understand the impact of the cuts on people with protected characteristics such as age, disability, sex and race.

Watch chairman, Ian Strachan's comments here:

The barristers for each side will be:

  • Alison Foster QC (representing the PSNC)
  • David Locke QC (representing the NPA)
  • James Eadie (representing the DH)

The Judicial Review, presided over by Justice Andrew Collins, will explore the substancial arguments from each party and give the DH an opportunity to respond.

When the hearing is concluded the judge may reserve making a decision immediately in which case the outcome of each cases could be delayed for several weeks.