The chief executive of NHS England (NHSE), Amanda Pritchard, will be called before the Health and Social Care Committee’s (HSCC) pharmacy inquiry, which is expected to begin later this month.

The inquiry is set to look at the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), workforce issues, proposed legislative changes to pharmacy supervision and hub and spoke dispensing, as well as pharmacy apprenticeships and issues with medicines supply.

Steve Brine, chair of the HSCC spoke to delegates at the Sigma Pharmaceuticals conference this weekend about the upcoming pharmacy inquiry, as well as the committee’s inquiry into prevention of ill-health.

The former pharmacy minister thanked those who had contributed to the pharmacy inquiry, which will cover community, general practice, primary care network and hospital settings.

The inquiry will address challenges facing the sectors, including funding, digital infrastructure, workforce, as well as considering what the future of pharmacy could look like, exploring potential innovations and interventions which could benefit the sector.

And he highlighted  the importance of the attention the sector would be getting.

‘If we can’t make this work for us, as a sector, I’m not sure we ever can,’ Mr Brine said of the inquiry.

‘So, we've got to make sure that we do as much as possible over the next 12 months to keep this issue right here, right to the forefront. And… I'll do my best to make sure we keep doing that,’ he added.

He suggested that as chair of the cross-party HSCC, he has ‘probably more influence’ than he did as a junior minister.

‘I can give the government credit where it's due. And I can give it criticism where not,’ Mr Brine said.

And he stressed that preventing ill-health is part of what makes ‘a sustainable NHS’.

‘We have a situation where we're increasing health spending faster than GDP is rising [and] we have a situation where demand is outstripping supply,’ Mr Brine said.

‘The reason that health and care services in this country have a problem is because demand outstrips supply,’ he added.

And he said that while ‘you can keep increasing supply, you can increase taxes further, you can spend more on the NHS’, ‘ultimately, you're just chasing your tail’.

Instead, the health system should focus on trying to reduce demand on its services, Mr Brine said.

‘That’s what the NHS was set up to do, [it] was set up to be a wellness service, not just a sick service. And there still too much demand on the system,’ he added.

He welcomed the government’s plan to raise the smoking age by one year every year, saying that it ‘will save millions of lives’.

But Mr Brine said that he would like to see action on prevention ‘go further’ and focus on obesity.

The HSCC’s prevention inquiry intends to explore what steps can be taken to prevent people slipping into ill-health.

A total of 10 workstreams were chosen from more than 600 submissions, with sessions on vaccination and healthy places, including housing, having already taken place.

Today (9 November) the committee is exploring the harms caused by alcohol, drugs, gambling and tobacco.

Mr Brine said today: ‘We are all too aware of the harms, including addiction, that can be caused by alcohol, drugs, gambling and smoking. The government’s plans announced in the King’s Speech to introduce legislation to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ are welcome news. However, that won’t safeguard the current generation of children who will continue to be affected by parents who smoke, for example.

‘If you drink alcohol regularly, are you aware of the risks to your health? If you smoke, gamble or use drugs? We’ll be considering what responsibilities those industries share, and where the government needs to step in to encourage change across the population and prevent ill-health caused by alcohol, drugs, gambling and smoking.

‘We’ll question the impact of public health messaging on avoiding harmful behaviour that contributes to poor health and consider the effectiveness of existing regulation.’

Future sessions of the prevention inquiry will cover mental health and wellbeing; healthy eating and obesity; health inequalities; sexual health; early years and childhood; cancer prevention; and prevention of other major conditions.