Major judicial review judgement: High Court judge reluctantly upholds Jeremy Hunt’s £321m million cuts to NHS community pharmacy services – but berates government

A major 16-month judicial review of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to cut £321 million from NHS’s community pharmacy budget has ended with a High Court judgement in favour of the government.

Hunt’s decision to make such a radical cut will inevitably hit the poorest people in society and heap more pressure on overstretched NHS frontline services and adult social care. The case was brought by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), which argued that the Department of Health had failed to properly consider or understand the negative impact that pharmacy closures will have on the country’s poorest communities. The judge presiding over the case, Mr Justice Collins, said that “with regret” he could not overturn the government’s decision, but berated the actions of Hunt and the Department of Health, saying that in future politicians need to have more regard for how their decisions will effect health inequalities and NHS services.

Andrea James, the partner at professional services firm Knights 1759 who with colleagues acted on behalf of the NPA, commented: “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”.

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