Government to open five regional aseptic pharmacy ‘pathfinder’ hubs by 2027

The move to centralise aseptic medicine production in England has been welcomed, but there are calls for the government to commit to funding to allow for delivery.
Close-up of drug handling equipment inside a glovebox facility being used for aseptic filling of drug vials at a pharmaceutical research and manufacturing facility

Five “pathfinder” aseptic hub facilities will open across England by 2026/2027, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

In written evidence responding to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry into issues affecting pharmacy provision, the DHSC said the facilities will be located in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, North East and North Cumbria, Devon, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The facilities are in development following a review of aseptic services carried out by Lord Carter of Coles in 2020, which proposed transforming aseptic services across England by creating “a national network of regional hubs with the capacity to produce high-volume products on an industrialised scale” by 2026/2027.

The review said the hubs would scale up production of injectable medicines “from the current 3.4 million individual doses, which are prepared in English hospitals annually, to over 40 million”.

However, in its written evidence, the DHSC said the initial hubs will be supported with £75m in funding between 2022 and 2025, and that a “further capital bid will be submitted in the 2026/2027 spending review to support the funding of additional hubs for full national rollout estimated to cost £275m”.

The aim of the hubs will be to “develop a proof of concept and track whether the anticipated benefits materialise”, the evidence said.

“Local hospital aseptic units will continue to make essential bespoke and complex medicines for individual patients, conditions and clinical trials.”

In its response to the committee’s inquiry, NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care said it had received £12m “to support the development of a [Greater Manchester] aseptic pharmacy hub”.

“There are a number of workstreams set up to support the [Greater Manchester] aseptic work. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust has been named as the hub for increasing capacity to make injectable products,” it said.

James Davies, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, commented: “I welcome the development of the five pathfinder sites. ‘Ready-to-administer’ batches made via standardisation and automation methods via hubs will improve quality and availability, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on patients and those healthcare professionals who are involved in the preparation and administration of these medicines.

“However, overall resource and funding has been insufficient to date to deliver a full transformation process. Initially, £225m was requested to deliver the project, and we need to see that committed to in the next spending review.”

In March 2021, the Welsh government announced plans to spend £67m on opening three facilities to replace “some but not all” of the aseptic pharmacy services currently running in hospitals.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2023, Vol 310, No 7974;310(7974)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2023.1.189603

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