The Department of Health (DH) introduced a “near miss” process last October to review pharmacies that did not initially qualify for the Pharmacy Access Scheme – designed to protect businesses which are situated a mile or more from another pharmacy by road from the “full effect” of the funding cuts in England.
C+D exclusively revealed on Wednesday (January 25) that NHS England has rejected all 54 of the applications it has received so far from pharmacies – and is working through a backlog of another 88.
Noel Wardle, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, told C+D: “There is no right of appeal against NHS England’s decision. Any challenge would have to be made by way of an application to court for a judicial review.”
It is “difficult to tell from the pure numbers whether NHS England is properly determining these applications”, Mr Wardle said.
It is "possible" the commissioner has been “overly restrictive” in deciding that none of the 54 applications it has reviewed for financial protection so far are "critical" for patients' access to health services, he pointed out.
However, it is also possible that these applications were for pharmacies which are "simply ineligible", or that these applicants "have not properly evidenced their applications”, he added.
Delays to applications
NHS England told C+D this week that it is “sorry for the delay that some pharmacies have experienced” with their application process.
Mr Wardle, who has guided “several clients” through the application process, stressed that the criteria is “complex” and the process “is not straightforward”.
“None of the clients I am assisting with a review application have yet received a decision.”
Contractors have until February to apply for the protection scheme, and Mr Wardle said it would be “astonishing” if NHS England had not accepted any of the applications it had received by "late April".