English Pharmacy Board (EPB) chair Sandra Gidley has revealed her organisation held “engaging” and “constructive” talks with NHS England (NHSE) over pharmacy’s role in the government’s 10-year NHS plan and the profession’s ability to shape local health structures.

As the government works on improving local communities’ access to health services, marked by investment in mental health and cancer care and a redesign of urgent and emergency care services, question marks remain over the part community pharmacy will play.

There have been concerns the sector was largely left out of the planning process for sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) and many pharmacists have struggled to engage with the structures.

Indicating talks with Ed Waller, director of primary care contracts at NHSE, were productive, Gidley (pictured) said: “The Board had a constructive discussion with Ed Waller from NHS England on the NHS Long-Term Plan and the vital role that pharmacy will play in delivering a sustainable health service.

“We also underlined the importance of pharmacists being able to help shape emerging models of care, such as Primary Care Networks. It was an engaging conversation and we look forward to working with Ed further.”

Gidley said four regional liaison pharmacists employed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to support pharmacists’ involvement with STPs, one for the north, south, midlands and east and London, had reported back to the EPB on the early stages of their work, although the Board did not provide any details on their progress.

“We were delighted to hear from the new RPS Regional Liaison Pharmacists about the first stage of their work in helping local pharmacy leaders engage with a changing NHS. We know that all health profession struggle to reach STPs and the evolving NHS structures and this is an ongoing challenge,” Gidley said.

“Ensuring pharmacists can contribute their expertise to local system leadership will be vital in promoting patient safety and integrating health services.”

Gidley also said the Board was looking forward to working more closely with the RPS Hospital Advisory Group, which provides expertise on issues of hospital practice, but insisted the Board was committed to supporting all sectors within pharmacy amid concerns the RPS has not been as focused on community pharmacy as it has general practice pharmacists.

An online letter which garnered the signatures of over 650 pharmacists last year accused the RPS of putting “too much emphasis” on GP pharmacists and not doing enough to promote the interests of community pharmacists.

Gidley added: “We welcomed a discussion with the new chair of the Hospital Expert Advisory Group and we look forward to working with them more closely over the coming year. The importance of engaging with the whole of the RPS membership was a recurring theme over both days and the Board reaffirmed our commitment to supporting all sectors of the profession.”