Some 13% of community pharmacies in Wales are actively providing independent prescribing services, falling short of a government-backed target for a third of pharmacies to offer such services by 2022.
Responses from all seven Welsh health boards to a freedom of information (FOI) request from The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that 94 of 709 community pharmacies (13.2%) had an independent prescribing pharmacist actively providing prescribing services as of 4 May 2022, when the FOI request was sent.
This falls short of a target set out in ‘Pharmacy: delivering a healthier Wales’, a Welsh government-commissioned report published in May 2019, which called for 30% of community pharmacies to have an independent prescriber actively providing services by 2022.
The goal was the first step towards a longer-term ambition of having “an independent prescriber in every community pharmacy” by 2030, according to the report, which also noted that, at the time, 30% of pharmacists were qualified to prescribe, but “only 60% are routinely utilising this skill”.
The findings follow an expansion of the ‘Choose Pharmacy’ independent prescribing service on 1 November 2021, which enables all health boards in Wales to commission additional pharmacies to provide the service.
As a result, health boards told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they planned to commission more than 60 additional community pharmacies to provide the independent prescribing service in the subsequent months.
The service allows pharmacist independent prescribers to record clinical information and medicines prescribed during a ‘Choose Pharmacy’ consultation for conditions such as hay fever, athlete’s foot and eye infections.
Health board data analysed in June 2021 revealed that independent prescribers working in 33 community pharmacies in Wales had delivered more than 16,000 consultations since 2016.
Commenting on the data obtained by The Pharmaceutical Journal, Elen Jones, director for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Wales, said the RPS was “pleased that independent prescribing (IP) services are now available in over 90 community pharmacies in Wales but [we] recognise that more needs to be achieved by the end of this year to reach our 30% target”.
“The progress made since the publication of ‘Pharmacy: delivering a healthier Wales’ and during the pandemic is testament to the commitment in Wales to drive community pharmacy prescribing services forward,” she said.
“We are confident this momentum will continue and increase as new opportunities to deliver IP services are provided by the new community pharmacy contract, put in place in April 2022.
“The additional commitment of £4.2m per year in IP training by the Welsh government and the funding of 100 IP training places should also support the delivery of 2022 targets and new 2025 targets that we are currently helping to define.”
A Welsh government spokesperson said: “Wales is the first part of the UK to enable any pharmacy, where a suitably qualified and competent pharmacist independent prescriber is available, to be able to provide our new national independent prescribing service.
“We are confident that by the end of this year as many as 30% of pharmacies in Wales will be providing the independent prescribing service, benefitting the whole health and social care sector.”
They clarified that “plans are in place for 1 in 3 pharmacies to be providing the service by the end of 2022/2023”.
“Health Education Improvement Wales are supporting up to 100 pharmacists a year to undertake prescribing training and, from 2026, we expect all newly qualified pharmacists to be qualified prescribers at the end of their university courses; this will mean all pharmacies will be able to offer these services in time,” they said.