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Community pharmacy inquiry is ‘long overdue’ says ex-NPA chair


Community pharmacy inquiry is ‘long overdue’ says ex-NPA chair

By Neil Trainis

The former National Pharmacy Association chair and Board member Ian Strachan has lent his voice to growing calls for the health and social care select committee to hold an inquiry into community pharmacy this year.

In an interview with Independent Community Pharmacist, to be published in full next month, Strachan (pictured) said an inquiry, promised by the Committee’s chair Steve Brine last month, was “vitally important” and “long overdue” as community pharmacies across England continue to struggle against poor funding and increasing overheads.

“It’s the right thing. All the way through the pandemic, I was forecasting that one day, there’d be a review, inquiries, into what worked during the pandemic, what didn’t work during the pandemic. Pharmacies certainly worked during the pandemic,” said Strachan, who stepped down from the NPA Board in October last year.

“The idea that it’s resilient, that its ability to respond to adversity out there with agility was evident for everyone to see. And we just got on with it when there were so many unknowns in the face of the public. People were scared to death of coming outside, people were scared to death of not wearing masks, people were scared to death of even looking at somebody and we were there every single day.

“Steve Brine has announced that inquiry (which) is vitally important because what that inquiry will be able to do is tease out that resilience, that efficiency, that productivity in this sector. It’ll be able to tease out the potential of this sector, and how its capacity can be delivered five, 10-fold over.”

Strachan said an inquiry would also allow for an open debate and thorough examination of community pharmacy without it being “choked and compromised.”

“I very much welcome that because that’s where the politicians are asking the questions, that’s where they’re allowing it to probe, that’s where allowing it to go. And I really do think there is need for an inquiry. I really welcome that announcement by Steve, I really do. I think it’s the right thing to do, I think it’s long overdue and I’ll be welcoming it.

“Steve is passionate about pharmacy, nobody can deny that. He does see it, he does get it. He was the last minister who I dealt with as (NPA) chairman back then in that period. And I’ve always felt he got its potential and got the fact that it can do more, so I very much welcome it.”

Helen Buckingham, the director of strategy at the Nuffield Trust, said Brine’s pledge to hold an inquiry this year was “timely” in view of the Trust’s work with the King’s Fund on developing a vision for community pharmacy.

The NPA said it was “delighted to hear reports” that an inquiry has been promised and insisted it would support it by giving evidence to the Committee.

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