All community pharmacies in Wales will be able to provide a range of services under a new ‘national clinical community pharmacy service’ from April 2022.
The new service forms part of a renegotiated contractual framework for the sector agreed between the Welsh government and representative body Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) to provide a consistent pharmacy offering across health boards.
In a statement published on 16 December 2021, the Welsh government said that the service will combine an emergency contraception service, common minor ailment treatment service, emergency medicine supply service and annual flu vaccination service.
Under current arrangements, community pharmacies can provide any or all of these four services through the ‘Choose Pharmacy’ platform. However, under the new national clinical service, pharmacies will need to provide all four services or opt out entirely.
A framework document published alongside the statement adds that the new service will be extended during 2022/2023 “to enable pharmacies to provide both bridging and quick start contraception”.
In addition, the new contract “also includes plans to roll out a Wales-wide pharmacy prescribing service which will allow appropriately trained pharmacists to treat an extended range of conditions that currently require people to visit their GP”, the statement said.
The range of conditions that pharmacists can prescribe for will be extended beyond the current service, the document adds.
Under the current independent prescribing (IP) service in Wales, pharmacists can assess and diagnose minor illnesses, and record clinical information and medicines prescribed during a ‘Choose Pharmacy’ consultation for conditions such as hay fever, athlete’s foot and eye infections.
The ‘Choose Pharmacy’ IP service module currently includes acute conditions, as well as provision of oral contraception and management of drug withdrawal.
As of June 2021, pharmacists had delivered more than 16,000 consultations through the IP service, from 33 pharmacies across Wales since 2016.
The service was later expanded to enable all health boards in Wales to begin commissioning additional pharmacies to provide the service. Health boards told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they plan to commission more than 60 additional pharmacies to provide the service in the coming months.
However, under the new contract, any pharmacy will be able to provide the IP service if they employ an appropriately qualified pharmacist independent prescriber.
The Welsh government’s statement said that by April 2024, funding for IP services will increase from £1.2m to £20.2m per year, while funding for the national community pharmacy clinical service will increase from £11.4m to £20.0m per year in that time
Commenting on the new framework, Russell Goodway, chief executive at CPW, said: “Community pharmacists have argued for many years that they could make a greater contribution to the needs of NHS Wales and its patient population by delivering a wider range of clinical services.
“The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated that to be the case and CPW is delighted to have been able to work collaboratively with Welsh government, during challenging times, to develop a new contractual framework for community pharmacies in Wales which will make the local pharmacy the first port of call for a range of clinical services dealing with a host of conditions which at the moment require a GP appointment.”
He added that the agreement for Welsh pharmacies “will avoid the pitfalls facing colleagues in England where funding for community pharmacies has been cut”.
Eluned Morgan, Welsh health minister, said: “Pharmacists are experts in medicines and undertake extensive training to help people manage a range of common ailments. Utilising the skills of community pharmacy teams will mean we are able to better meet the needs of the NHS and people in Wales now and for future generations.”
Cheryl Way, chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the new framework “fully recognises pharmacy’s clinical role”.
“These developments will see patients being able to fully benefit from the skills of pharmacists and their teams.
“We are also delighted that the contract embraces the ambitions set out in the vision document ‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales‘ which provides a consensus view from pharmacy teams across Wales as to how pharmacy services should be developed by 2030.”
‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales‘, published in April 2019, sets out plans to have an independent prescriber in each community pharmacy in Wales by 2030, with an intermediate target to have an independent prescriber in 30% of community pharmacies by 2022.
Read more: A quiet revolution: how pharmacist prescribers are reshaping parts of the NHS