The All-Party Pharmacy Group has said that ministers need to state clearly what role they expect community pharmacy to play in the health service and that politicians in each of the UK nations should work closely with pharmacy bodies to develop this role.

The APPG, which is made up of MPs and Lords and is currently chaired by Labour MP Kevin Barron, regularly investigates issues relevant to pharmacy and shares findings and recommendations with health ministers.

In its report on an October 31 evidence session on community pharmacy in the devolved nations, the Group recommends: “It is for ministers to set out a vision of the role community pharmacy will play in the future, in order to deliver on each nation’s objectives for the NHS. That vision should be the result of discussion and close working between Government and the community pharmacy organisations.”

This recommendation follows on from the consensus voiced by the witnesses at the session (Harry McQuillan from Community Pharmacy Scotland, Russell Goodway from Community Pharmacy Wales and Gerard Greene from Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland) when asked by Alex Chalk MP, private parliamentary secretary to Matt Hancock, what key message he should deliver to the health secretary.

Mr Goodway added that if the Government wants there to be fewer pharmacies five years down the line, it should be upfront and honest about this so that pharmacy professionals will know where they stand.

Other recommendations

The APPG gives a number of recommendations in its report on the session, at which there was a wide-ranging discussion on the opportunities and challenges facing pharmacy professionals in the devolved nations. These recommendations are to be submitted to pharmacy minister Steve Brine.

They include:

  • Community pharmacy’s ability to assist patients with mental health issues is overlooked; its role “needs to be taken into account” as part of the chancellor’s budget commitment to invest in mental health services
  • A social care strategy is required that better recognises community pharmacy’s role and develops relationships with care homes and other social care providers
  • Executives in each nation should prioritise education, training and investment in community pharmacy “to shift healthcare delivery in primary care”
  • Commissioners should develop clinical services that “build on pharmacies’ core role of dispensing medicines”
  • “Consistency and continued investment” is required to get maximum benefit from public health services such as smoking cessation and sexual health, which “have a strong evidence base”
  • To facilitate closer working between GP surgeries and community pharmacists, IT systems and contractual arrangements should be reviewed
  • Executives in each nation are encouraged to consider successful schemes in the other nations, and to look at how the pathway from pilot to nationally commissioned scheme can be sped up.

The APPG told Pharmacy Magazine it awaits Mr Brine's response "with interest" and hopes he will agree to a meeting in early 2019.

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