The Pharmacy Access Scheme is designed to protect pharmacies in England which are situated a mile or more from another pharmacy by road from the “full effect” of the cuts – as long as they are not in the top 25% best-performing businesses according to dispensing volume.
Last October, the Department of Health (DH) introduced a “near miss” process to review pharmacies that did not initially qualify for the scheme, but are affected by factors that could limit patient access.
NHS England began accepting applications from contractors in November and said it would aim to complete a review within six weeks.
However, in an email to lawyer Andrea James, partner at Knights Professional Services Limited, NHS England said an announcement about whether pharmacists have qualified for the funding would be "impossible" until after the results of the general election on June 8.
"We are awaiting the outcome of the judicial review into the reforms to community pharmacy contractual framework and we are now constrained by the general election," NHS England said in the email sent this afternoon (April 28), and seen by C+D.
"I am sorry that your application has been caught in these two pieces of process that now make an announcement about your application impossible until after the general election," it added.
Ms James – who is advising "a number" of pharmacists on their application for the funding scheme – said NHS England's mention of the judicial review was "very odd, if not misleading".
"NHS England issued decisions on [access scheme] applications in the run up and during the judicial review," she said."If they had determined all applications within the six week target timeframe – which expired on 11 April – the general election announcement would be irrelevant."
In March, the commissioner confirmed it had rejected each of the 78 applications from pharmacies it had reviewed so far.
C+D has contacted NHS England for comment on today's email.