Pharmacists should get their own royal college to unite the profession and give it a stronger voice, the government has concluded.

A Department of Health working party report says that if pharmacists are to move from a 'product-focused service to a truly clinical profession', their regulation must be similar to that of other professions.

Working party chair Lord Carter said a General Pharmaceutical Council should also be created, which would work in a similar fashion to the General Medical Council.

The proposals to set up two new bodies to oversee pharmacy have been welcomed by the King's Fund in its own report, Professional Leadership in Pharmacy: exploring the case for a royal college for the pharmacy profession.

King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said: 'Independent regulation and leadership brings the pharmacy profession in line with other healthcare professions.

'This is even more important today as the role of pharmacists develops, with more patient care now delivered in community settings such as chemists.'

The King's Fund report says the new royal college will need a secure funding base to ensure its future, and has suggested a project board be set up to represent interests across the profession.

Mr Dickson added: 'The pharmacy profession now faces the challenge to build a shared vision that takes forward this unique opportunity to create a new institution as a centre of excellence.'

The DoH working party recommended that both the General Pharmaceutical Council and the royal college should be fully operational by January 2010.