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Judicial review judgement: the sector responds

The Department of Health welcomed the High Court’s decision to dismiss the judicial reviews brought by PSNC and NPA, while pharmacy organisations queued up to express their disappointment at the verdict.

PSNC said it was “disappointed” with the result. Chief executive Sue Sharpe commented: “Our lawyers and QC felt that we had a good case, and there are serious criticisms of the consultation process and of the Department of Health made in the judgement.

"Unfortunately, the fact that the Secretary of State has very wide powers to decide what is relevant to his decisions – coupled with the Department withdrawing reliance on analysis they had undertaken – means that we failed to establish that the inadequacies in the process were sufficient to make the process unlawful.”

The NPA described the verdict as “a watershed moment” that exposes the flaws in current pharmacy policy and opens the way for talks about a radically different approach, which sees pharmacies as a solution to longstanding NHS pressures, in deprived neighbourhoods and elsewhere.

Chairman Ian Strachan said the judge had “comprehensively debunked the risible idea that the cuts are for the good of patients. This is a compelling judgement that recognises the important role of community pharmacy in primary care, which some ministers and officials have sought to diminish.”

This is a watershed moment for pharmacy policy, he continued, as the flaws in the current Treasury-led approach have been exposed. “We can now focus on changing the direction of policy going forward.”

“It is a shame that we had to go all the way to the High Court to bring this matter to a head, considering the widespread public support for the front-line services provided by local pharmacies. What is important now is to enter into constructive discussions about a positive way forward for the sector, patients and the NHS.”

Numark managing director, John D’Arcy, called the verdict “a devastating blow” for community pharmacy.

“We have been failed by Government and the judicial system, and it is clear that whilst this was not the desired outcome, more should be done within the sector to recognise the challenges community pharmacy faces. The fight for the future of community pharmacy must continue,” he said.

Chair of RPS England, Sandra Gidley, said: “The Government is not making the most of what community pharmacy has to offer. As a matter of urgency after the general election the new Government needs to respond to the recommendations of the Murray Review and take forward a positive plan for community pharmacy.”

This is a watershed moment for pharmacy

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