Pharmacist counting cost of NHS Hertfordshire battle

A PHARMACIST who has been at loggerheads with a health trust over late and non payment for services has hit out over the costs it has incurred fighting his case in the small claims court.

Graham Phillips, who owns the Manor Pharmacy Group with shops in Harpenden, Wheathampstead and Radlett as well as other parts of the county, is taking NHS Hertfordshire, formerly the West Herts Primary Care Trust, to the small claims court over money he is owed.

And he is furious that prior to a hearing scheduled for last week, the trust brought in a leading firm of solicitors to contest a technicality over his claim which was dropped shortly before the court hearing was due to start.

Mr Phillips believes that NHS Herts do not do enough to support the work of community pharmacists and in the past few years he has experienced problems over slow payments for services his company has provided.

He maintains that emails, letters and phone calls as well as requests for meetings with NHS Hertfordshire have gone unanswered and other pharmacies have experienced similar problems.

Eighteen months ago he decided to go to the small claims court to retrieve money he believes he is owed and claimed that since then, NHS Hertfordshire had stalled to get the case delayed. Last week, NHS Hertfordshire, using healthcare specialist law firm Capsticks, tried to get the case dismissed on a technicality – only to concede the issue just before the hearing was due to begin. A new hearing will now have to be held.

Mr Phillips described the trust’s decision to try and get the claim struck out and then admit they were wrong 10 minutes prior to the start of the hearing as “moronic” and a waste of public money.

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He said: “We have been going around in circles for 18 months now and finally after all this, they have gone to Capsticks and spent public money on this and a senior barrister.

“If they are prepared to meet me round the table so I can air my views and they make a reasonable offer for the sake of everyone, I could well accept it particularly as the trust is at the end of its administration.”

A spokesperson for NHS Hertfordshire which, like all primary care trusts in the country is expected to hand over most of its commissioning responsibilities to new GP consortia by 2013, said that despite meeting with Mr Phillips to discuss the issues he had raised, the trust was disappointed not to have been able to resolve the situation.

She went on: “Going to court is not something we would choose to do but Mr Phillips has taken action against us so we must respond and are doing all we can to bring this situation to a conclusion.”

She added: “Capsticks is the firm of solicitors that NHS Hertfordshire uses to provide us with legal advice if we need it; they have not been engaged solely in this instance.”