Pharmacy Cuts Judicial Review Judgment Revealed

Posted 18 May 2017 | 0 Comments

TODAY (18 May) a case lasting more than 16 months has come to a head as the High Court handed down Judgment on Jeremy Hunt’s decision to cut community pharmacy funding by £321 million.

Mr Justice Collins concluded “with regret” that he could not overturn the government’s decision to impose a £321m cut on pharmacy services in England. However, he heavily criticised the Department of Health’s actions and ruled that, in future, Ministers must have full regard to their duty to reduce health inequalities when making decisions about the NHS.

Acting on behalf of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) – the UK-wide trade association representing community pharmacy – was partner Andrea James and senior associate Oliver Wright from North West-based Knights 1759.

Partner at Knights Andrea James said: “This was an important case for the pharmacy sector and the communities they serve. The Judge accepted that there is a powerful duty to reduce healthcare inequalities but decided, with regret, that he could not quash the government’s decision.

The effect of such a radical reduction in funding for community pharmacies in England will be hugely detrimental; not only will it hurt the most vulnerable people in society, but it will also add even more pressure on frontline NHS services and adult social care.

It has been a privilege to work with the NPA and witness the passion with which they have fought for their members and their patients”.

The NPA’s case was that the Department of Health failed in its duty to properly understand or consider the negative impact of its cuts and resulting pharmacy closures on people living in deprived communities, or that those with protected characteristics would suffer as a result of the cuts.

Andrea continued: “We were able to demonstrate evidence that pharmacists have been forced to change their service offering in response to the cuts; removing important healthcare services and/or charging for services that were previously free, such as home delivery and dosette boxes. With an already chronic shortage of GPs in deprived areas and proven discrepancies between life expectancy of the richest and poorest in England, the Department of Health has a duty to reduce health inequalities. The Court ruled in our client’s favour and against the Department of Health on the correct interpretation of this legal duty, but ultimately concluded that the Department of Health’s actions, whilst “regrettable” and worthy of both “blame” and “criticism” could not legally be quashed.

This was a significant project for Knights and pharmacy is one of the key healthcare sectors in which we have specialist expertise. We were proud to have been chosen to represent the NPA in such an important and worthwhile case.”

Oliver Wright, senior associate at Knights 1759, added: “We are grateful for the Judge’s recognition of the vital role community pharmacy plays within the NHS, which goes far beyond dispensing medicines, particularly in some of the most deprived communities in the country”.

David Simons COO of the NPA said: “We’re delighted with the support we have received from the Knights team, who have brought no end of legal skill and judgement to a challenging case”.

David Beech CEO of Knights said: “We are continually looking to grow our team of professionals and are interested in hearing from both teams and individuals. The NPA case was a key project for the team. A very strong and well evidenced case was put together by Andrea, Oliver and the NPA, it is disappointing that this time the Judge’s decision was not in their favour.”

Knights became the first UK commercial law firm to be granted an ABS licence and attract private equity investment. Its unique business model providing high quality services from regional centres has allowed it to grow rapidly to 500 staff operating from six regional offices, achieving a £40 million turnover. The regional business has a growing portfolio of legal and non-law services including education, franchising, healthcare and corporate law.

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