Updated supervision legislation could be published as early as spring 2024, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

After a formal UK-wide consultation on the issue is conducted this autumn, it will be approved by parliament before final publication.

The sector will also be given the opportunity to suggest when any changes to pharmacy practise should commence.

The news came within the DHSC’s response to a report from the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) which found that the government’s progress on its commitment to legislative change for the sector was ‘inadequate’.

The DHSC accepted the panel’s assessment, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as one reason for the delay on legislative changes, including original pack dispensing and hub and spoke.

It suggested that it was now able to move forward with a consultation on amendments to ‘supervision’ legislation following the conclusion of the discussions and published report from the Pharmacy Supervision Practice Group.

‘Changing the law is the last step in a process of gaining consensus on what any new rules should look like regarding who should “supervise” the dispensing of medicines,’ the DHSC said in its response to the HSCC expert panel’s report.

‘There have for many years been strongly held, opposing views in the sector and professions on whether these changes should be made.

‘The recently published report from the cross-sector Pharmacy Supervision Practice Group shows significant and sufficient coalescence of views for the government to move to formal consultation on amending the law around “supervision”.’

It added that it was working with devolved governments to conduct a UK-wide consultation on the proposed amendments this autumn.

‘Resultant legislation will then need to be approved by parliament and the Privy Council, before laying the legislation in spring/summer 2024,’ the DHSC added.

It clarified to The Pharmacist that this would be the point that the final resultant legislation would be published on the government website.

Changes to pharmacy practise would then come into force at an agreed future date. And the government said that it would consult with the sector as to when the changes should commence, ‘to ensure any amendments to the law enter into force is in a controlled and measured way, providing the profession and employers adequate time to safely and effectively implement the changes’.

At the Pharmacy Show last week, sector leaders said that while they may continue to hold varied opinions about pharmacy supervision, their recent collective report represents a ‘consensus’ among the sector.

And in a recent exclusive interview with The Pharmacist, Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, suggested that the proposed supervision changes could free up pharmacists to deliver more services whilst still being present in the pharmacy.