NPA says government must make good on promises after Court of Appeal rejects funding challenge

23 Aug 2018

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) says it is “naturally disappointed” at the Court of Appeal judgment today, in which three senior judges rejected appeals by the NPA and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) against a decision in 2016 to cut pharmacy funding.

NPA Chair, Nitin Sodha, urged all parties to seize the moment to engage in dialogue, and called upon the new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, to fulfil his recent commitment to invest in community pharmacy.


The PSNC appealed the funding cuts on six grounds, including that the Secretary of State for Health (then Jeremy Hunt) could not rationally have made his decision on the basis of the information obtained by him.  The NPA argued additionally that he breached his obligations under section 1C of the NHS Act 2006 to reduce inequalities with respect to the benefit people in England get from health services.


All the grounds for appeal were dismissed.  However, the judgment echoes the judgment of the High Court last year that aspects of the government’s decision-making process were “regrettable”.


Nitin Sodha said:


“We are naturally disappointed by the judgment, but we see it as a prompt for meaningful dialogue between government, NHS and the community pharmacy sector about a positive way forward.


“We are 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. When announcing its package of reforms in 2016, and ever since, the government has repeatedly promised transformational improvements involving the delivery of clinical services in community pharmacy.  It’s time to make good on these commitments.  We are of course encouraged by Matt Hancock’s recent pledge to invest in community pharmacy and keep people out of hospital.


“The legal challenges flushed out significant information about how Ministers arrived at highly controversial decisions. This process has thereby served an important purpose in terms of achieving transparency and accountability.  So we can now hope that future decisions will be taken with fuller consideration for their consequences – including the consequences for vulnerable patients, deprived communities and independent pharmacies.


“We are proud to have made this stand on behalf of our members and the patients and communities they serve so admirably.


“We continue to argue for concerted action to address the shameful level of health inequalities in this country.  An acid test for the forthcoming 10 Year NHS Plan will be whether the poorest patients and communities benefit from the new investment linked to that plan”.


The appeals concerned the lawfulness of a package of changes introduced by the Department of Health in October 2016, which included unprecedented cuts to pharmacy funding amounting to £321million over two years.


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