Labour Party promises ‘more pharmacists independent prescribing rights’ in manifesto

The Labour Party plans to address pressure on GP surgeries by improving access to treatment through new routes, such as through a Community Pharmacy Prescribing Service.
Liverpool, United Kingdom - October 10 2023: Labour Party Conference. Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer speaking to conference, sleeves rolled up and covered in glitter from a recent protest

The Labour Party would “create a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service, granting more pharmacists independent prescribing rights”, according to its manifesto, published ahead of the UK general election.

In the manifesto, published on 13 June 2024, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The National Health Service needs to move to a neighbourhood health service, with more care delivered in local communities to spot problems earlier. To achieve this, we must over time shift resources to primary care and community services”.

Labour will address this by “[taking] the pressure off GP surgeries, by improving access to services and treatment through new routes” and will “create a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service, granting more pharmacists independent prescribing rights where clinically appropriate”, the manifesto said.

The commitment comes after Wasim Baqir, senior pharmacist for the pharmacy integration fund at NHS England, said in May 2024 that it had confirmed funding to deliver the Independent Prescriber Pathfinder Programme in 2024, with 14 sites live with the service as “proof of concept” and a total of 180 sites ready for roll out.

The pathfinder programme was revealed by The Pharmaceutical Journal in September 2022 and will trial independent prescribing in community pharmacies across England, ahead of establishing a commissioning framework for the service.

Independent prescribing services in community pharmacies have also been running in Scotland and Wales since 2020 and 2016, respectively.

Labour’s pledge to increase pharmacist prescribers, as well as further funding for community pharmacy, is not mentioned in Labour’s fiscal plan in the manifesto.

Paul Rees, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said the Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service “is positive and could help to expand the work of pharmacies”.

“However, many community pharmacies are faced with intolerable financial pressures, with pharmacies closing at a record rate as well as cutting back their opening hours,” he said.

“If Labour are serious about growing the role of pharmacies, they need to commit to a real-terms funding increase. This will allow the network to stabilise and pharmacies to expand the services they can offer their communities.”

Tase Oputu, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English Pharmacy Board, said the manifesto “reaffirms the cross-party support for how pharmacists will be key to delivering the NHS of the future”.

However, she added: “As we ask pharmacists to do more, they must be backed by workforce planning and sustainable funding.”

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said CPE was “pleased to see a commitment to create a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service”, adding that “expanding independent prescribing recognises the clinical skills of community pharmacists and the potential of the sector to alleviate pressures elsewhere in primary care”.

Meanwhile, the Green Party, which published its manifesto on 12 June 2024, has also committed to growing pharmacy services.

In its ‘Real Hope, Real Change’ manifesto, it calls for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be made available in community pharmacies.

The manifesto states that “elected Greens will work towards no more HIV transmissions by 2030, advocating for a joined-up approach using proven actions, including access to the HIV prevention pill online, in pharmacies and from GP services”, and that the Party will “renew successful optout HIV testing programmes in A&Es in all areas with a high prevalence of HIV”.

Responding to the pledge, Oputu said: “The RPS has long called for access to PrEP through community pharmacy settings to allow individuals more readily access to this crucial preventative measure.

“We would like all political parties to commit to improving PrEP access and include pharmacy as a key partner to enhance public health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.”

The Pharmaceutical Journal reported in April 2023 that the ‘PrEP access and equity task and finish group’ — established by the Department of Health and Social Care in October 2022 to identify ways of improving access to PrEP as part of the HIV action planrecommended the establishment of a series of national pilots for PrEP provision in settings outside specialist sexual health clinics, including pharmacies.

However, in February 2024, a government-commissioned report revealed that recommendations for pilots to explore how PrEP could be made available via community pharmacies were still being considered as “possible future opportunities”.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2024, Vol 312, No 7986;312(7986)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.320424

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