The Health and Social Care Select Committee has invited professionals working in preventative healthcare to help shape an inquiry into preventing ill-health, in a call for evidence launched this month.

Steve Brine, former pharmacy minister and chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said that a focus on preventing ill-health was, in his opinion, ‘the only way to keep our NHS sustainable’, and ‘offers the biggest opportunity for everyone to enjoy a better quality of life’.

The government has asked individuals and organisations working in preventative healthcare, as well as members of the public, to propose topics that they feel should be considered as part of a national prevention inquiry.

These could include:

  • Obesity and physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Mental health
  • Healthy environments
  • Healthy homes and workplaces
  • Disease prevention
  • Upstream prevention, including genomic sequencing.

The call for evidence will be open until Wednesday 8 February 2023.

Dr Bharat Shah CBE, co-founder of pharmaceutical wholesaler Sigma Pharmaceuticals, described community pharmacy as ‘the right place’ for the general public to discuss their health needs as a ‘first port of call’, and be recommended a further course of action or treatment.

‘They are well trained and professionally qualified to highlight and prevent any serious conditions that may have a major impact not only on an individual’s life but also to save NHS funding.’

‘However, community pharmacy must be adequately funded to action this initiative,’ he added.

The Fuller Stocktake report, published last year, called for a ‘more active role' for community pharmacy in urgent care and prevention.

And in 2020 NICE recommended that community pharmacies could potentially play a greater role in recognising illnesses, treating minor problems and promoting overall health.

This could be by having a conversation about managing weight, giving up smoking or reducing alcohol intake, as well as playing a role in referring and directing patients to other local health services

And this month, amid pressures on the wider NHS, health secretary Steve Barclay called on the community pharmacy sector to do ‘even more’ to help ease pressure on general practice.

Last week pharmacy leaders launched the ‘Save our pharmacies’ campaign, highlighting ‘the huge untapped potential of the sector’, as well as the pressures that community pharmacies are under.

PSNC chief executive described the sector as a ‘cost-effective’ way to ‘help to meet the many challenges facing our health service.’

However, the campaign warned that this would only be possible ‘if appropriate resourcing is made available’.