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Forum forges ahead to unite pharmacy and public health interests

The Pharmacy and Public Health Forum is in a 'great position' to help pharmacists improve the public's health, says PHE national director of health and wellbeing Kevin Fenton

The government's pharmacy and public health forum is in a "great position" to support the sector, three years after it was created, Public Health England (PHE) has said.

The forum, set up in 2011 to bring together pharmacy and public health interests, could now consider how to build on its momentum and help pharmacists to improve the public's health, said PHE national director of health and wellbeing Kevin Fenton in a progress report of the forum's work.

However, one of the forum's six original task groups has not yet held a single meeting. The forum said some groups had made "more progress than others", in the report published last week (June 25).

The forum said it was impressed with the work of its task group set up to accelerate the use of healthy living pharmacies (HLP), which completed an evaluation of the HLP pathfinder programme last year. The task group was considering whether to establish a national body to award pharmacies with a HLP mark of quality and had submitted a bid to the Department of Health (DH) for further research to build on the evaluation's findings, the forum said.

Another of the forum's groups had been commissioned by the DH to produce a report on pharmacy's position within the reformed NHS, which was published last year, while a third group worked with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to publish standards for the profession in March.

A task group set up to evaluate and strengthen the evidence base for community pharmacy's contribution to public health had persuaded the DH to put £1.5 million towards funding new research into pharmacy's public health role. The DH was currently evaluating the research bids it had received, the forum said.

Other groups had less to report. A task group set up to decide how to develop the pharmacy workforce to take on an expanded public health role has only met twice, while another group responsible for providing business support to the forum has delayed its first meeting until the results of the other groups are made available.

A seventh task group was set up in January with the intention of producing a communications strategy for the forum, it said.

Forum chair Richard Parish said that although the report emphasised the body's "considerable achievements to date", these "merely served to provide a foundation for future success".

Mr Fenton said PHE was committed to "resourcing and supporting" the forum and he hoped to see more pharmacists influencing national and local decision making over the next decade.

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