Minor ailments prescribing service to be offered by more than 90 community pharmacies

Hypertension is the second most common prescribing service and will be offered at 73 independent prescribing pathfinder sites.
Pharmacist scanning medicine at pharmacy till

At least 93 community pharmacies taking part in the first nationally-funded prescribing service in England will offer minor ailments services, according to a senior NHS England figure.

Under the Independent Prescribing Pathfinder programme, 210 community pharmacies — known as ‘pathfinder sites’ — across all 42 integrated care boards (ICBs) will trial independent prescribing, ahead of establishing a commissioning framework for the service.

Anne Joshua, interim deputy director of pharmacy commissioning at NHS England, confirmed which clinical models the pathfinder sites would follow in the ‘Chief pharmaceutical officer bi-monthly webinar’ held on 7 March 2024.

In an update on the pathfinder programme, Joshua showed a graph revealing an overview of services that the pathfinder sites will offer, which showed that the most common prescribing service is for minor ailments, to be offered by 93 pathfinder sites.

Hypertension is the next most common service, which will be offered at 73 sites; respiratory services and cardiovascular disease prevention services (including lipids) will each be offered by 23 sites; while contraception will be offered by 20 sites and dermatology by 12 sites.

Some sites will offer novel services, with prescription management being offered by 11 sites, women’s health by 10 sites, deprescribing by 8 sites, depression by 8 sites, anticoagulation by 5 sites, sexual health by 3 sites and health inequalities by 3 sites.

The pathfinders, which were originally planned to launch in January 2023, have been delayed owing to issues with funding and implementation.

A spokesperson from electronic prescribing system (EPS) provider Cleo Systems told The Pharmaceutical Journal in February 2024 that it was “working closely with NHS England to plan the pathfinder programme” and “aims for implementation from spring 2024”.

In her presentation, Joshua also confirmed that all 42 ICBs in England have signed memorandums of understanding for the pathfinder programme and are working on clinical models.

She said 164 of the potential 210 pathfinder sites had registered for the programme as of 29 February 2024.

“I’m very aware that this time [in 2023] we were in the process of asking for expressions of interest and we were hoping to be live with prescribing EPS capability within the pharmacy sites,” she said.

“An awful lot of work has happened since a year has passed on and we’re hoping we’ll have pharmacies live soon.”

A contract summary published by North of England Commissioning Support on 15 March 2024 shows that a contract valued at £28,500–£285,000 has been awarded to supply 10 pathfinder sites for North East and North Cumbria (NENC) ICB, starting on 1 April 2024 and ending on 30 September 2024.  

“The pathfinder sites in NENC will be involved in exciting work to explore how community pharmacists can best deliver an integrated prescribing offer, for acute illnesses, alongside general practices in their local community,” the summary says.

The pathfinder programme is intended to prepare a commissioning framework for independent pharmacy prescribing ahead of 2026, when all newly qualified pharmacists will become independent prescribers at the point of registration.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2024, Vol 312, No 7983;312(7983)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.305183

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