The Department of Health is to draw up plans for primary care trusts to commission more services from pharmacists.

In a white paper published last week, the DH revealed it would enlist NHS Employers and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee to work on the plans.

It said pharmacies would be most likely to deliver services where there was a "strong link with the use of medicines" or where the pharmacy provided an accessible location for health improvement services.

Details of evidence to support commissioning, service criteria and specifications will be produced when negotiations are complete, with the intention that PCTs begin commissioning from pharmacies as soon as possible, the DH said in Building on Strengths, Delivering the Future.

NHS Employers has also been asked to put together a working group to promote more effective working relationships between pharmacists and GPs.

The white paper includes a package of reforms to give pharmacies some prescribing powers, a role in screening and a new focus on minor ailments and long-term conditions. The DH also plans to appoint two pharmacist clinical directors to champion change.

Reaction to the proposals was mixed. NHS Confederation deputy policy director Jo Webber warned the challenge would be to ensure strong working relationships between PCTs and pharmacists.

British Medical Association GPs committee chairman Laurence Buckman welcomed extended roles for pharmacists, but said the overall management of patients with long term conditions was best left to GPs.

For more in-depth coverage, click here