Community pharmacy independent prescribing
Developing and utilising the clinical skills and capabilities of community pharmacists, supported by significant investment in training, is part of a wider shift across the health system to improve access to care in local communities and address health inequalities.
Pharmacist independent prescribers will facilitate quicker and more convenient access to safe and high-quality healthcare, including the prescription of appropriate medicines for minor illness, addressing health issues before they get worse, providing monitoring of long-term health conditions and preventing ill-health.
Community pharmacists will be working as part of wider primary care teams and supported by their primary care network colleagues.
The expanding clinical scope of practice for pharmacy technicians will be key to supporting pharmacist prescribers with the opportunities for multidisciplinary working as a key driver for change.
Independent prescribing training for pharmacists
Pharmacists are experts in medicines, and extensive prescribing training will be incorporated into the 5 years of their education in both the undergraduate and foundation programmes. This process began in 2021 in collaboration with Health Education England when the revised standards for the Initial Education and Training of Pharmacists came into effect.
From September 2026 all newly qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers on the day of registration, and this presents an opportunity for NHS England to commission clinical services from community pharmacies incorporating independent prescribing as the new workforce enters the profession.
Health Education England has been offering up to 3,000 independent prescribing courses from Autumn 2022 to end of March 2024 for community pharmacists with further cohorts of training for pharmacists working across other settings , including locums.
The Pharmacy Integration Programme is also introducing funded clinical examination skills training for community pharmacists to support registered pharmacists prepare for prescribing training or extending existing prescribing scope of practice. This training equips pharmacists to gather clinical information to support the resolution of minor illness symptoms, medication issues, improve history taking, deliver self-care advice and treatment for patients presenting to community pharmacies, and engage with other emerging clinical service developments. Clinical modules in cardiovascular disease, ENT, dermatology and paediatrics will support consultations with patients to provide advice and follow-up – while also helping pharmacists to feel confident and prepared for the new challenges of their role.
The Independent Prescribing ‘Pathfinder’ Programme
NHS England is developing a programme of pilot sites, referred to as ‘pathfinder’ sites, across integrated care systems enabling a community pharmacist prescriber to support primary care clinical services. This presents a unique opportunity for community pharmacy to redesign current pathways and play an increasing role in delivering clinical services in primary care.
The scope for pathfinder sites will be determined by integrated care boards (ICBs), who will be urged to fully utilise the skills and capabilities of community pharmacists to build on clinical services already commissioned as advanced pharmaceutical services or add into locally commissioned services.
ICBs will work with community pharmacy teams to identify the pharmacies and local pharmacists that will deliver the service by becoming a pathfinder site, as well as other NHS bodies, local authorities, and community organisations involved in delivering joined up care.
In January 2023, NHS England opened an expression of interest process for integrated care systems to take part in the Pathfinder Programme. The pathfinder programme is now being developed with lCBs.