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Day one of the pharmacy funding cuts High Court appeal: what happened?

The High Court appeal is expected to last two-and-a-half days

C+D's blow-by-blow account of pharmacy's appeal against the funding cuts at the Royal Courts of Justice

‘Fag packet approach’ to pharmacy cuts ‘plainly wrong’, court hears

The lawyer representing the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) in the High Court appeal against the pharmacy funding cuts has attacked the government’s “fag packet approach”.

Alison Foster QC once again criticised the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DH) strategy during the first day of PSNC’s and the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) appeal against a High Court judge’s decision last year to uphold the pharmacy funding cuts.

More precise information should have been required on the possible impact of the DH’s decision to cut 12% from the pharmacy budget in England before the cut was imposed, she argued in the Royal Courts of Justice today (May 22).

PSNC launched its legal challenge against the funding cuts in December 2016, on the basis that the DH “failed to carry out a lawful consultation” on its proposals for the sector.

In his dismissal of the case – handed down on May 18, 2017 – Judge Justice Collins said while the DH’s consultation process was “unfair”, it was not “unlawful”.

On granting PSNC the right to appeal his decision last year, the judge acknowledged that the DH had failed to disclose its use of a Companies House analysis that showed community pharmacies have an operating margin of 15%.

Today in the High Court, Ms Foster accepted the DH did some analysis of the sector before implementing the cuts. However, its evidence was unreliable, she claimed.

Ms Foster argued there is a logical inconsistency at the heart of the DH’s decision and the steps taken to implement the funding cuts were “wholly wrong”.

Judges’ response

Lord Justice Gary Hickinbottom – one of three judges presiding over the appeal – argued the process the DH undertook when making its decision with the information it had seen was “legally fine”.

In his reporting from the proceedings, C+D’s digital reporter Thomas Cox said the judges seemed sceptical that the DH did not use enough information before deciding to cut the sector’s funding.

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

C+D digital reporter Thomas Cox (@CandDThomas) will be reporting live from the court for the duration of the appeal. Keep an eye on the C+D website for updates and follow the action in real-time on Twitter using the hashtag #CutsInCourt

 

Below is C+D's live coverage from the first day (May 22) of the pharmacy funding cuts appeal case in the High Court in London. Read here for information on all the key players, and to see how the sector got to this point, read our summary here.

Follow @CandDThomas for real-time updates on Twitter, or catch up on all the coverage from last year’s hearing here.

For reference, 'SI' is Lord Justice Stephen Irwin, 'GH' is Lord Justice Gary Hickinbottom, 'JB' refers to Sir Jack Beatson. PSNC's lawyer is 'AF', Alison Foster QC, the NPA's lawyer is 'DL', David Lock QC and the DH's lawyer is 'JE', James Eadie QC.

 

The NPA’s Stephen Fishwick gives his take on today’s events

C+D digital reporter Thomas Cox rounds up today's events

 

Where: The Royal Courts of Justice, London

When: May 22, 10.30am – with an estimated hearing time of two-and-a-half days

Representatives:

James Eadie QC, Department of Health and Social Care (DH)

Alison Foster QC, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)

David Lock QC, National Pharmacy Association (NPA)

Find out more about the lawyers battling over the funding cuts in court here.

And the judges?

Lord Justice Stephen Irwin, Lord Justice Gary Hickinbottom and Sir Jack Beatson.

How did we get here? The journey back to the courts

December 1, 2016: PSNC launches a legal challenge to the pharmacy cuts, the day the 12% drop in the sector’s funding in England comes into force.

The negotiator believes the DH “failed to carry out a lawful consultation” on its proposals for the sector.

The NPA is named as an “interested party” in PSNC’s case.

December 13, 2016: The NPA confirms its own “formal launch of High Court proceedings”, on the grounds that the DH failed to consider the impact the funding cut will have on the elderly, the disabled and those from black and ethnic minority communities.

The DH says it does not accept the grounds for a judicial review and aims to persuade the court that the NPA’s case is “without merit”.

March 21-23, 2017: PSNC and NPA outline their cases to Judge Justice Collins at the Royal Courts of Justice.

May 18, 2017: Judge Justice Collins dismisses "with regret" both the NPA's and PSNC's cases.

June 23, 2017: PSNC and NPA given permission to appeal the High Court decision.

May 21, 2018: The day before the appeal hearing is due to begin, NPA vice chair Andrew Lane says: “The High Court judgment vindicated our stance on health inequalities and we now want to see that flow through to a logical and fair conclusion.

“Had the DH properly considered the impact of its cuts, it would have realised that the cuts will ultimately have a disproportionate effect on people living in the most deprived areas of England, where there is already a lack of NHS provision.”

There is “no fixed date” for the verdict, the NPA says, and PSNC stresses “it is not helpful to speculate on what the outcome may be at this stage”.

 

C+D digital reporter Thomas Cox (@CandDThomas) will be reporting live from the court for the duration of the appeal. Keep an eye on the website for updates and follow the action in real-time on Twitter using the hashtag #CutsInCourt

How is your pharmacy coping with the funding cuts?

As PSNC and the NPA appeal the High Court judge’s decision last year to uphold the pharmacy funding cuts, tell us how your pharmacy is coping.

Leave your comments under the story, or contact C+D anonymously by emailing [email protected]

4 Comments
Question: 
Are you hopeful that the funding cuts appeal will be successful?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

These are contractor organisations whinging about the money they are getting from the taxpayer, they have been doing that eversince I qualified in 1979. The sad fact is, employee pharmacists, which is now the majority on the register, will not experience any benefits even if they win. The contractors have money to spend on court actions, but none to increase staffing levels!

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

I’m not sure what you’ve been doing all these years, but haven’t you noticed staffing levels going down as the cuts happened? If not, then you need to get out more! 

Dave Downham, Manager

Unfortunately, the biggest winners will be the lawyers. Plus ca change...

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Community pharmacy sincerely hope something comes out of this. Unlikely but if they don't try they will never know. 

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