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HSCC launches new inquiry on future role of pharmacy services

MPs have today launched a new inquiry to examine the future role of pharmacy services, the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) has announced.

The HSCC today (June 8) said that a new inquiry will “examine the readiness of pharmacy services to capitalise on future opportunities” as healthcare delivery changes.


The pharmacy inquiry, which launched today, is also set to consider “current challenges around funding, workforce and the digital infrastructure”, as well as the “role on pharmacy services in [the] future NHS”, it added.


“The committee will examine the status of pharmacy [in England], focusing on community, primary care and hospital services and how they could best serve the future NHS”, it said.

 

“Time of change and reorganisation”

 

The HSCC said it will “consider what the future of pharmacy could look like” in the context of the “upheaval driven by the COVID-19 pandemic” and a “time of change and reorganisation across the health and care system”.


Read more: New inquiry to rate government progress on pharmacy services pledges


“The inquiry will focus on addressing current challenges, particularly around the funding model, digital infrastructure and workforce recruitment, training and retention,” it added.


The inquiry is one of eight currently in progress by the HSCC and is accepting evidence from today until July 6.



Call for evidence



In its call for evidence, the HSCC asked to what extent funding and commissioning arrangements for community pharmacy are “fit for purpose” and whether the sector has the “resource and capacity to realise the ambitions” in the government’s primary care recovery plan.


It also asked whether there are “the right number of community pharmacies in the right places” and how the government can “ensure that is the case across the country”.


Read more: All the headlines from the primary care recovery plan


Other questions are around the interoperability of digital systems between pharmacy, general practice and hospitals, the factors that cause medicines shortages and how these can be addressed and what “innovations could have the biggest impact on pharmacy services”.


It asked what “the future of pharmacy” looks like and how the government can “ensure this is realised”.



Realising pharmacy’s potential



HSCC chair and former pharmacy minster Steve Brine 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,” he added.


Mr Brine said that “better use of the pharmacy workforce” would “reduce pressures” on hospitals and GP practices, but stressed that this “will not happen without a planned workforce with the funding, supervision and training to support it”.


Read more: All the reaction to NHSE's £645m plan to expand pharmacy services


The HSCC will be making recommendations to the government on “what action needs to be taken to ensure the potential of pharmacy is realised” at the end of its inquiry, he said.

It comes as the committee’s independent expert panel is also carrying out a “separate evaluation” of the government’s commitments in the area of pharmacy, the HSCC said.

Read more: Labour pledges to 'go further' with pharmacy 'prescribing service'

It announced in April that the new “independent evaluation” would “focus” on the government’s progress on commitments made to pharmacy services, rating progress against pledges.

However, it remains unclear when this separate inquiry will launch.

Mr Brine said in March that the committee was planning to launch a policy inquiry focussing specifically on community pharmacy “later in 2023”.

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