A Scottish government review of pharmacy launched to help enhance community pharmacists' role in healthcare and ensure sustainability for the sector has come at a "good time", experts have said.
Nearly ten years had passed since the government published its strategy for developing pharmacy services in Scotland, The Right Medicine, said Community Pharmacy Scotland CEO Harry McQuillan, adding that it looked as if that might now be updated.
Pharmacy contractors agreed that the time was right to re-examine pharmacy services, while the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) called the work a "massive opportunity" for community pharmacy.
The review, which launched on October 17, has been set up to look at the long term sustainability of pharmaceutical service arrangements in Scotland, with a view to enhancing pharmacy's role and encouraging closer working with GPs.
"We believe there is further scope to develop and enhance [pharmacists'] role for the future, as well as the arrangements that underpin the planning, contracting and delivery of pharmacists' services to ensure their longer term sustainability and achieve the high-quality healthcare to which we are committed," said Scottish Cabinet secretary for health Nicole Sturgeon.
The review would provide a basis for this and help ensure pharmacists' skills and expertise were being put to best use, she explained.
The Scottish government is seeking evidence on a range of topics, including the provision of patient care, the needs of care home residents and how technology could be used to give pharmacists more time to spend with patients.
Hamish Wilson, board vice chair of scrutiny body Healthcare Improvement Scotland, and the University of London School of Pharmacy's Nick Barber are leading the work and are expected to report their findings and recommendations in autumn 2012.
Contractor George Romanes of Romanes Pharmacy in Duns agreed that it was a good time for a review, and had hopes the work could shine a light on ways that the pharmacy and GP contracts could be made compatible.
And the work represented a "massive opportunity" to enhance pharmacists' role in providing healthcare in Scotland, agreed RPS Scotland director Alex MacKinnon. "We especially value the continued commitment to collaborative partnership working between pharmacists and GPs," he said.
The announcement in Scotland comes just three months after the Welsh Assembly Government unveiled a review of the role and potential of community pharmacy in Wales.
NPA chief executive Mike Holden said that while such a review in England could be a next step for the government following its public health and NHS reform white papers, he believes that the sector's role was being examined on an ongoing basis already, such as through the pharmacy and public health forum launched this summer.