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Health committee chair confirms community pharmacy inquiry for 2023


Health committee chair confirms community pharmacy inquiry for 2023

By Neil Trainis

The health and social care committee chair Steve Brine has said it will shortly launch a call for written evidence as it prepares to hold an inquiry into community pharmacy this year.

Brine's confirmation of the inquiry via a recorded message played during the Sigma conference in the Dominican Republic fulfils a promise he made to Independent Community Pharmacist in January although, once again, he did not give a specific timeframe for when that inquiry will take place. 

"As chair of the health and social care select committee which scrutinises the government's policy, I'm acutely aware, (having been) the pharmacy minister, of some of the challenges facing the pharmacy sector. The Committee is planning to launch an inquiry later in 2023 focusing specifically on community pharmacy," said Brine (pictured).

He suggested his Committtee's inquiry into the prevention of illness which has already started produced many proposals on how community pharmacies can play an important role, "particularly around issues of obesity, smoking, alcohol and mental health." 

Brine said his Committee has not yet decided which of the "hundreds of inquiry proposals relating to prevention" it will take forward for inquiry but insisted "the strong interest in communty pharmacy in so many submissions" it received indicates the importance of the sector in preventing illness.

He also said any submissions that are not taken forward as part of the prevention inquiry "will almost certainly feed into and inform" the community pharmacy inquiry as his Committee works out "the terms of reference for that and prepare to launch our call for written evidence later on this year."

"One of the major inquiries that we've already launched is into prevention, one of my top priorities as chair. We began our prevention inquiry with a call for proposals. This is a unique opportunity for stakeholders and the public to suggest particular topics in relation to prevention that would benefit from scrutiny by our Committee," he said,

"What we are going to do is use our findings to set a challenge to the government to boost prevention as one of its top priorities. We intend to set a clear direction of what steps ministers must take now to achieve a new goal by the end of the decade. In three weeks, calling for ideas for that inquiry, we received nearly 600 proposals and community pharmacy, you won't be surprised to know, came up repeatedly.

"It noted that pharmacists already play a key role in prevention, particularly around issues of obesity, smoking, alcohol and mental health. Several submissions called for more recognition of the importance of community pharmacy to the NHS as part of that family.

"The Royal Pharmaceutical Society noted that with the right support, community pharmacies could be used routinely by the public as easily accessible health hubs, for example, women's health, sexual health, minor illness, monitoring long-term conditions and administration of medicines.

"They commented to us that in future, pharmacy teams should be able to enhance opportunities of early detection of ill health through intervention of the use of its population health data and maximise ongoing advances in technology such as wearable tech and point-of-care testing, something the Committee is already looking into as part of its ongoing inquiry into the digital transformation of the NHS."

Brine said other suggestions as part of the prevention inquiry include getting community pharmacy to "fit seamlessly" into social prescribing, social care, housing and the voluntary sector as well as allowing community pharmacy to help reduce obesity rates through nutrition, education, weight management, counselling and medication.

Other submssions, he revealed, included using community pharmacies to help prevent esophageal cancer by focusing on risk factors such as obesity, smoking and alcohol, with pharmacists "giving advice to help reduce the prevalence of heart burn before it develops into esophageal cancer."

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