An influential committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into what action must be taken to ensure the profession is ‘in the best shape’ to meet demands and future opportunities.

The Health and Social Care Committee will examine the ‘readiness’ of pharmacy services to ‘capitalise on future opportunities as the way in which healthcare is delivered is changing’.

The inquiry will also explore the current challenges around funding, workforce and digital infrastructure, and will examine ‘the status’ of pharmacy across community, primary care and hospital services in England.

It comes after a £645m cash injection into community pharmacy was announced to deliver a new national Pharmacy First service, as well as new contraception and hypertension case-finding services.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Steve Brine said: ‘It is clear that pharmacy has a central role to play in the future of the NHS.

‘With a greater focus on personalised and patient-centred healthcare, we will be asking what more must be done to make sure that the profession is in the best shape to meet demand.’

He added: ‘Better use of the pharmacy workforce would reduce pressures on general practice and hospitals.

‘However, this will not happen without a planned workforce with the funding, supervision and training to support it.’

The committee is currently seeking views and evidence from anyone who can answer any or some of the questions listed below. Evidence should be submitted by Thursday 6 July.

Questions being asked include:

  • What does the future of pharmacy look like and how can the government ensure this is realised?
  • What are the challenges in pharmacy workforce recruitment, training and retention, and how might these best be addressed?
  • What innovations could have the biggest impact on pharmacy services and why?
  • To what extent are funding arrangements for community pharmacy fit for purpose?
  • What factors cause medicine shortages and how might these be addressed in future?
  • To what extent does community pharmacy have the resource and capacity to realise the ambitions in government’s primary care recovery plan?
  • Are there the right number of community pharmacies in the right places, and how can we ensure that is the case across the country?
  • To what extent are commissioning arrangements for community pharmacy fit for purpose?
  • To what extent are digital systems used in pharmacy sufficiently interoperable with those in general practice and hospitals?

Following the inquiry, the committee will be making recommendations to the government ‘on what action needs to be taken to ensure the potential of pharmacy is realised’.

The committee’s Independent Expert Panel is also carrying out a separate evaluation of government commitments in the area of pharmacy.

Gareth Jones, the director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said that the inquiry was a 'significant opportunity' for MPs to hold the current government to account, as well as guide future policy.

He also noted that the inquiry 'puts pharmacy in the political spotlight just at the moment fundamental questions are being asked about the sustainability of the NHS as a whole'.

'Community pharmacy can help solve many of the long-term challenges faced by the health service and this must be the thrust of the inquiry in our view,' he added.

He also said that the NPA was confident that former health minister Steve Brine understands the sector’s potential, and that the inquiry was asking the right questions.

And he added that it was 'vital' that the community pharmacy sector engages fully in the inquiry.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists' Association (CCA), also welcomed the inquiry.

He said that despite the recent investment in the sector for new services, 'the historic underfunding of community pharmacy remains, and Primary Care Networks (PCNs) continue to directly recruit community pharmacists'.

'We hope that this timely inquiry will outline the challenges facing the pharmacy sector and establish the support we need,' he added.