NHS England has confirmed that every integrated care board (ICB) in England will run at least one community pharmacy independent prescribing pathfinder pilot.
In January 2023, all 42 ICBs in England submitted expressions of interest to be part of the independent prescribing pathfinder programme, which was first revealed by The Pharmaceutical Journal in August 2022.
In contract documents published alongside a tender for an evaluation of the programme, NHS England said that it had been moderating the submissions with the national Independent Prescribing Oversight Group and the Pharmacy Integration’s Clinical Reference Group.
The documents, published on 10 August 2023, said: “As a result of the moderation process, NHS England has concluded that at least one service model will operate in each ICB area.”
“As part of the programme, each service model will be subject to an independent evaluation – contributing to an overall evaluation of the pathfinder programme as a whole,” the tender document continued.
The organisation commissioned to run the evaluation will be expected to produce an evaluation and analysis plan for the pathfinder programme within one month of winning the contract, which is due to be determined by the end of October 2023.
An interim and final report will later be produced as part of the evaluation, at a later date to be agreed.
In May 2023, The Pharmaceutical Journal reported that every ICB had submitted expressions of interest to trial the community pharmacy independent prescribing service, after Wasim Baqir, lead pharmacist for the Pharmacy Integration Fund at NHS England, confirmed that the submissions included “15 different service types”, most commonly focusing on cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Speaking at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress in London on 12 May 2023, Baqir presented slides showing that 25 ICBs had proposed prescribing through the ‘Community pharmacist consultation service’, 13 proposed a respiratory service that could provide “rescue therapy with corticosteroids and antibiotics” and increasing or decreasing inhaled corticosteroids, while 12 proposed a contraception service which would “add on to tier 1 or tier 2 advanced services”.
On 14 August 2023, NHS England’s X (formerly Twitter) account for primary care announced that NHS England had written to all ICBs to set out the next stage for the development of the pathfinder independent prescribing programme.
The account quoted David Webb, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, who said: “From September 2026, all newly qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers.
“We are delighted to be working closely with ICBs to test the different ways that independent prescribing in community pharmacy will benefit patients,” the post added.
A spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association said: “This is a very significant moment in the future development of community pharmacy-based NHS services. We hope everyone in and around the sector gets behind this important initiative, as we ourselves certainly will.”
- This article was updated on 17 August 2023 to include a comment from the National Pharmacy Association