C+D can exclusively reveal the names of five pharmacies who are threatening to take the government to court over funding cuts.
Backed by eight clients, law firm Charles Russell Speechlys warned pharmacy minister Alistair Burt about potential legal action last Friday (March 4).
In a letter sent to the minister, the firm labelled the government's plans to cut pharmacy funding in England by 6% “legally flawed”.
The firm's senior healthcare partner David Reissner told C+D that, as a legal requirement of its ongoing consultation into pharmacy funding, the government must be open to changing its mind. But it has “plainly” already decided to make the 6% cut, he said.
Who has backed the letter?
Three of the law firm’s eight clients wish to remain anonymous. The other five are:
• Contractors Elisabeth and Alun Hopkins, who own Hopkins Pharmacy in Uxbridge
• Butt & Hobbs Ltd, which trades as Hobbs Pharmacy, a 10-strong nationwide chain
• Medipharmacy Group, a 23-strong chain based in the south-east of England
• CG Murray & Son, which trades as Murray’s Pharmacy, a 25-strong chain based in the Midlands
• Waremoss Ltd, the trading name of Kamsons Pharmacy, a nationwide chain with 56 branches
In the letter, the law firm demanded confirmation that the government is not committed to reducing pharmacy remuneration in October. It also asked for detailed proposals for any funding changes.
The letter imposed a deadline of 4pm on March 18 for Mr Burt to respond. Depending on that response, Charles Russell Speechlys' clients may take the government to court, it said.
Government consultation "strikingly deficient"
The firm's letter said the government’s consultation on the cuts – due to end on March 24 – is “seriously and strikingly deficient”. The government has also not provided enough detail on its proposed funding changes, the letter added.
It quoted Alistair Burt’s answer to a C+D question on funding cuts last month, in which the minister said the cuts were already “settled”.
Mr Reissner said that, should his firm launch a judicial review on the cuts, he expects other pharmacy chains to join the fight. If any of the pharmacy bodies said they were launching legal action, his clients would consider whether they need to take action themselves, he said.