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REVEALED: The secret meeting that decided pharmacy's future

PSNC estimates the High Court pharmacy hearing will take three days

C+D's rundown of the first day of PSNC and the NPA's legal challenge to the funding cuts in England at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

REVEALED: Government’s secret meeting with pharmacy ‘insider’ to decide sector’s future

Senior Department of Health (DH) officials seemed to base their decision to cut community pharmacy funding on a meeting with an unknown sector insider, documents have suggested.

The details of the 2015 meeting are revealed in a heavily redacted 53-page government document, seen by C+D during the first day of the High Court challenge to the funding cuts.

Speaking exclusively to C+D after the documents were revealed in court, National Pharmacy Association board member Mike Hewitson said that rather than take note of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s cost of services enquiries into community pharmacy from both 2005 and 2011, the government appeared to have based its policy on the “words of a single person in a private meeting”.

“The government appears to have taken away from that meeting the impression that pharmacies are excessively profitable,” Mr Hewitson said.

Mr Hewitson questioned the credibility of the unnamed individual, who according to the meeting notes told DH officials in July 2015 that “some pharmacy businesses are making 40-60% private income on top of NHS income”.

Mr Hewitson added: “We don’t know the origins of the [insider]; we don’t know if they are a credible witness; or whether they have an axe to grind or have commercial conflicts of interest.”

“It seems like a really dodgy piece of policy work.”

The minutes from the meeting – which state that the unnamed individual had “experience of buying, selling and managing pharmacy businesses” – were then ordered to be destroyed, attendees at the High Court hearing were told today.

For the full details of the first day of the High Court pharmacy funding battle, see below.

C+D will be reporting live from the High Court again tomorrow.


Below is C+D's live coverage from the first day (March 21) of the pharmacy funding cuts case in the High Court in London. For information on all the key players, as well as how the sector got to this point, read our in-depth summary here.

Follow @CandDAnnabelle for real-time updates on Twitter, or catch up on the second day of the hearing here.

For reference, 'AF' is PSNC's lawyer Alison Foster QC, and 'JC' refers to judge Justice Collins


The NPA's Stephen Fishwick talks "flawed premises" and inadequate government planning, after day one of #CutsInCourt

C+D deputy news editor Annabelle Collins wraps up day one of #CutsInCourt


As the court hears the legal precedents behind the case, Xrayser imagines what a win for the sector might look like. Read the full article here 



Are you hopeful the funding cuts will be quashed?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I believe no one here is seriously suggesting that Boots, Lloydspharmacy, Co-op, Rowlands etc etc are in danger of going under? I also think we need to distinguish how the profits in pharmacy are distributed, ie the split between pharmacists and pharmacy contractors (maybe even pharmaceutical suppliers). The "Insider" wouldn't have convinced the government without evidence.

Chris Mckendrick, Community pharmacist

You are right. Governments always need indisputable evidence before making such decisions. WMD a case in point

Robert O'brien, Academic pharmacist

They big 3 should get together for Freedom of Information to find out who this insider is!

Uday Thakrar, Superintendent Pharmacist

As the cuts are based on the information of the insider isn't it possible to get the full release of document and minutes under FOI? Where is the tranperancy promised?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

If part of the problem is the belief that contractors are making excessive profits, yet contractors say this is not the case, have any volunteered to open up their books to the court? Any identifying material could be redacted. For example in divorce cases full financial disclosure by both parties is necessary. This would settle the matter once and for all.

Dave Downham, Manager

I believe that this was based on information available from Companies House. This raises so many points, starting with: 

 - what is definition of "operating profit"? As my Latin teacher used to not say, quot homines tot accounting principles

 - what companies were used? Most smaller entities submit abbreviated accounts, i.e no profit and loss

 - if considering a % profit, why reduce fixed sum elements that disproportionately hit smaller volume pharmacies?

Bear in mind that Mr Mowat is a chartered accountant; shame he doesn't apply some of that skillset to analysing relevant data.

Chris Mckendrick, Community pharmacist

Handed industry insider document in court. Large amount redacted. DH warned to expect backlash. #CutsInCourt - how can redacted documents mean "full disclosure"? Will the unredacted document be made available?

Chris Mckendrick, Community pharmacist

"The DH met an insider who suggested pharmacies were excessively profitable. #CutsInCourt" - in the interests of transparency who was this "insider"?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

I'll eat my lab coat if they're reversed.

Robert O'brien, Academic pharmacist

Agree Valentine, this togetrh with the money wasted....contrary to the "lack of funds their fighting about"

Mike Hewitson, Superintendent Pharmacist

Hearing is scheduled to go on all of this week. 

Decision likely in a few weeks. 

James Waldron, Editorial

Hi Valentine,

PSNC's current prediction is that it will last three days. C+D is planning to report live from the entrire hearing.


James Waldron, C+D Editor

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Thanks James.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Does anybody have any idea of how long this will go on? Will it be resolved today, in a few days, weeks or months? Just hope no one mentions MURs... 

Prafulkumar Soneji, Locum pharmacist

For your benefit I copy and paste the caption under the photograph of the high court at the very top of the article:

PSNC estimates the High Court pharmacy hearing will take three days


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