The new committee for the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) was announced yesterday, with NHS cancer pharmacist and MP for Coventry North West Taiwo Owatemi taking the lead as chair.

The committee also includes Derek Thomas, MP for St Ives; Sir George Howarth, MP for Knowsley; Peter Dowd, MP for Bootle; Baroness Meacher and Lord-Clement Jones as new vice-chairs; and Elliot Colburn, MP for Charshalton and Wallington, as a new officer.

Paul Bristow, MP for Peterborough; Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer; and Baroness Cumberlege are also officers on the committee.

Former chair Jackie Doyle-Price MP had stood down after being appointed minister of state at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy in September 2022.

Ms Owatemi said that she was ‘delighted’ to be the chair of the APPG. ‘As an NHS cancer pharmacist, I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues across Parliament to promote the vital role that pharmacies and pharmacists play in delivering healthcare in Britain,’ she added.

Mr Thomas said in a tweet that he was proud to be the new vice-chair of the APPG, ‘campaigning for the NHS to harness the power of community pharmacy’.

‘Pharmacies have the potential to play a much bigger part in primary health care, and NHS commissioning must make full use of this important local resource,’ he said.

The APPG was formed in December 1999 ‘to drive forward cross-party conversations on topical issues and their significance for pharmacy, patients and the NHS.’

It receives financial support from the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIM); Company Chemists Association; National Pharmacy Association; Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee; and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, representatives for which were all present at a meeting in parliament yesterday.

At the session, which was attended by 18 parliamentarians, pharmacy groups shared how their work contributes to the nation’s health, including through providing informal advice consultations, vaccination programmes, stop smoking schemes and medicines optimisation.

They also said that pharmacists are ‘running out of fuel’ with ‘growing challenges’ such as flat funding, workforce shortages and the cost-of-living crisis, which a spokesperson for the APPG said are ‘impacting pharmacies’ ability to deliver vital services’.

The spokesperson continued: ‘At a time when the NHS is facing overwhelming pressures, Parliamentarians were told that government should be looking to protect pharmacies and working to unleash the full potential of an existing network of medically trained professionals at the heart of communities.’

Thorunn Govind, English Pharmacy Board chair at the RPS, said in a tweet that it was ‘lovely to meet so many supporters of pharmacy in parliament’. She added that it was time for Health Secretary Steve Barclay to recognise the benefits of Pharmacy First in England, saying: ‘England deserves to have healthcare on par with the other nations. It just makes sense - taxpayer and patient.’

Sandeep Dhami, who represented AIM at the event, told The Pharmacist that the pharmacy groups ‘made it clear of the crisis pharmacy is facing today on the ground’.

‘AIM has always maintained that there is a clear lack of playing field for community pharmacy in comparison to GP Practices and PCNs regarding workforce,’ he added.

‘AIM made it clear that we are willing and want to help the NHS out of their backlog but we need 'proper funding'. The winter pressures are about to hit us and we need to be ready. What has happened is that the NHS have taken pharmacists out of the community setting where they are freely accessible to the public.

‘It is that accessibly that we offer that our patients truly appreciate and by not giving community pharmacy a level playing field, the NHS is effectively taking away that accessibility and care from patients and community,’ he added.