The number of pharmacies offering an independent prescribing service in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will increase from 11 to 25 “over the coming months”, it has said.
In a statement published on 11 November 2021,the health board said the expansion will help prepare the NHS in Wales for the “busiest winter on record”.
It will mean that around 15% of pharmacies in the region will offer the service, under which pharmacist independent prescribers can assess and diagnose a range of minor illnesses — including ear, nose and throat problems, skin conditions and urinary infections — and prescribe medicines where appropriate.
The service was first piloted in 33 pharmacies across Wales, beginning in 2016. These pharmacies had delivered more than 16,000 consultations as of June 2021.
However, since November 2021, all health boards in Wales have been able to commission additional pharmacies to provide the independent prescribing service.
Elen Jones, Royal Pharmaceutical Society director for Wales, welcomed the news, describing it as “timely as we prepare for the busiest winter on record, and [it] will increase choice and provide better access for patients”.
The expansion is “firmly aligned to our vision in Wales to have an independent prescriber in every community pharmacy”, she said.
“We look forward to supporting the further development of this fantastic service, which provides great access to care for patients across Wales.”
‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales‘, a government plan published in April 2019, set out the ambition for each community pharmacy in Wales to have an independent prescriber by 2030.
The strategy also set out an intermediate plan for 30% of community pharmacies to have an independent prescriber by 2022.
Adam Mackridge, strategic lead for community pharmacy at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said that “as the training to become an independent prescribing pharmacist takes quite a lot of time, rollout will take time: but new pharmacies will begin providing this service year on year, helping to increase choice and provide better access for patients”.
The independent prescribing service builds on the community pharmacy Common Ailments Service — currently offered in 98% of the 712 community pharmacies in Wales — through which patients can receive pharmacist advice and free over-the-counter medication for 26 common ailments.
Data published in October 2021 show that 74,624 consultations were conducted under the Common Ailments Service in 2020/2021, with hay fever and conjunctivitis being the two most common conditions for which patients accessed the service.
In England, the NHS announced on 8 November 2021 that it would fund independent prescriber training for community pharmacists through a £16m investment to improve career development opportunities in the sector.
In Scotland, pharmacists who have completed the NHS Education for Scotland pharmacy foundation training programme can now access fully-funded independent prescriber training, to support the rollout of the independent-prescriber led NHS Pharmacy First Plus service.
Read more: A quiet revolution: how pharmacist prescribers are reshaping parts of the NHS