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Time to find a new common ground


Time to find a new common ground

Claire Ward, former chair of the now defunct Pharmacy Voice, issues a rallying cry following the High Court ruling yesterday: the legal battle may be over but the challenge to get policy makers to understand the true potential of community pharmacy goes on...

The outcome of the Judicial Review will be hugely disappointing to contractors. For those dealing with the reality of reduced income and hoping for a ‘David v Goliath win’ reality has landed.

Anyone reading the full judgement in the case will sense that Justice Collins was frustrated with the manner in which the consultation was implemented and had some sympathy for both patients and contractors who will be impacted by the cuts.

We can all pick over sentences and points of law but the conclusion is clear: the Department of Health (DH) conducted a consultation, which should have been handled better, but ultimately came to a lawful conclusion that they would make cuts to the pharmacy budget. No judge was ever going to change the politics and policy of the situation, even if they had concluded that the process was wrong.

As the lawyers on all sides prepare their invoices and contractors count the cost, where does the sector go now?

It's time to pick up the coffee and take a big sniff. Firstly, it needs to look at the landscape. In the midst of a general election, the Conservatives are predicted to have a massive majority giving full mandate to this decision and the manifesto commitments.

In political terms, the 2 million signatures on the petition are no longer worth the paper they are written on. Community pharmacy bodies have few friends or champions in the next government after a bitter legal dispute. More so, while the ministers at the DH may change, the officials behind much of this policy will probably not. Nothing in the Conservative manifesto suggests any rethink on the plans for pharmacy. That’s not me being the voice of doom – it’s the voice of political reality.

Building on the raised profile of the sector in the last 18 months we need policy makers to understand the greater potential of the pharmacy network and the value of clinically-focused healthcare professionals. That is why the most important thing now for the sector is to start finding some common ground for the future – better health outcomes for patients in the most efficient and cost effective way. Surely no government could disagee with that?

Claire will further explore the implications of the judicial review ruling in the June 2017 issue of Independent Community Pharmacist.



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