NPA’s Strachan: Our judicial appeal may not halt further pharmacy cuts

Last month, three judges dismissed both the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) appeals to overturn last year’s High Court judgment upholding the government’s decision to cut the sector’s funding in England.

Former NPA chair Ian Strachan – who launched the legal proceedings on the organisation’s behalf in December 2016 – said that while the outcome was not surprising, the appeal “had to happen” and “it was the right thing to do”.

“The judicial review was really about standing up for our members and defending [pharmacy’s] values,” Mr Strachan told C+D at the International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Glasgow on Monday (September 3).

One of the big successes of the NPA’s funding cuts campaign – which culminated in the organisation collecting two million petition signatures – and the resulting judicial review, is that the government is now “sensitive” to the “depth of feeling” that people have for community pharmacy, Mr Strachan added.

“We made [the government] realise that we will be stand up and be counted, no matter what happens going forward,” he added.

However, “this certainly doesn’t mean there won’t be further cuts going into 2018-19”, he warned.

Mr Strachan also hinted that the £170 million cut to pharmacy funding in England could have been even greater without the NPA and PSNC’s pushback.

Visions for a new contract

PSNC told C+D last week that its first meetings with government officials to negotiate England’s pharmacy funding for 2018-19 are “already in the diary”. The negotiator has previously said it intends to use the funding discussions to lay out a new service-based pharmacy contract to the government.

Mr Strachan said: “The idea of a clinical model, rather than just a supply or volume-based model, can be the right way to go, but I think any solutions now have got to be more than just screening. We have to [do] more than detection of ill health.”

The NPA met with government officials and pharmacy minister Steve Brine last year to discuss the future of the sector.

“I hope this dialogue will continue [so that] community pharmacy can proactively showcase its value as a solution to many of the challenges facing the NHS,” Mr Strachan said.

Author: Lorraine Oliver