An inquiry into the role of pharmacy services in the community, primary care and hospital settings has been launched by the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee.
It will focus on the “readiness of pharmacy services to capitalise on future opportunities” presented by the NHS, the committee said on 8 June 2023.
The inquiry will also consider current challenges around funding, workforce and the digital infrastructure as “planned developments within the profession… will allow future pharmacists to operate as independent prescribers from day one of registration”.
From 2026, all pharmacists who successfully pass the registration assessment will become independent prescribers, following changes to the General Pharmaceutical Council’s initial education and training standards in December 2020.
To prepare for this change, NHS England revealed to The Pharmaceutical Journal in August 2022 that it plans to trial pharmacist independent prescribing services in community pharmacies across the country.
Steve Brine, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “It is clear that pharmacy has a central role to play in the future of the NHS. With a greater focus on personalised and patient-centred healthcare, we will be asking what more must be done to make sure that the profession is in the best shape to meet demand.
“Better use of the pharmacy workforce would reduce pressures on general practice and hospitals. However, this will not happen without a planned workforce with the funding, supervision and training to support it.
“At the end of our inquiry, we will be making recommendations to the government on what action needs to be taken to ensure the potential of pharmacy is realised.”
In July 2022, the committee had recommended that the government produce “an integrated and funded workforce plan for pharmacy, which must be developed and laid before Parliament within 12 months”.
However, the government later said in April 2023 that it did not agree with the recommendation and instead planned to develop guidance on sharing the pharmacy workforce between primary care networks (PCNs) and other pharmacy employers.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, welcomed the inquiry, saying that “barriers to further inclusion of the community pharmacy sector have included integration, multidisciplinary working and a systemic cultural and leadership shift that is required if we are to play a more prominent role within the NHS”.
“It is vital that the inquiry embraces the views and opinions of a wider cohort of pharmacy stakeholders rather than the establishment. We look forward to engaging with this inquiry working closely with our members,” she said.
Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said the inquiry “is a significant opportunity for MPs to scrutinise the future of pharmacy and hold the current government to account as well as guide policy beyond the next general election”.
“It puts pharmacy in the political spotlight just at the moment fundamental questions are being asked about the sustainability of the NHS as a whole. Community pharmacy can help solve many of the long-term challenges faced by the health service and this must be the thrust of the inquiry in our view,” he said.
The committee’s inquiry is separate to the review of government progress on pharmacy services, which is being carried out by an expert panel that was appointed by the committee in April 2023.