Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has lowered its expectations for nationwide coverage of the independent prescribing Pharmacy First Plus service to 25% by the end of 2024, having previously said that one in three pharmacies in Scotland were expected to offer the service by the end of the year.
A spokesperson for CPS told The Pharmaceutical Journal that more recent estimates predicted that more than a quarter of pharmacies in Scotland would be offering the service by the end of 2024, with around 250 pharmacies currently delivering the service. They added that the aim remained for the Pharmacy First Plus service to be available to all communities.
“We remain confident that this will be possible, but it will require investment from government to realise this ambition. Having newly qualified pharmacists coming out as prescribers from 2026 will really accelerate the rollout of our advanced service,” they said.
Speaking at a lecture at the Royal Society in London on 15 June 2023, Harry McQuillan, chief executive of CPS, said that 206 Scottish pharmacies were providing NHS Pharmacy First Plus at the time, adding that “by the end of 2024, I expect to have another 246 [independent pharmacist] prescribers”.
“In 2023, if they all qualify and practice, we’ll be at one in four pharmacies in Scotland [offering the NHS Pharmacy First Plus service] and, by the end of 2024 … one in three,” he said.
However, in a weekly update published on 5 January 2024, NHS Grampian stated the region anticipated to have “well over 50% network coverage” for the service by the end of the year.
Pharmacists in Scotland have been able to independently prescribe through the NHS Pharmacy First Plus service since September 2020.
The service allows pharmacist independent prescribers to manage the treatment of patients with common clinical conditions which may otherwise have needed referral to another healthcare provider, including allergies and eye infections.
The independent prescribing service follows the launch of the NHS Pharmacy First service in July 2020 in Scotland, offering patients the opportunity to visit a pharmacist as their first port-of-call for minor illnesses, such as urinary tract infections, impetigo and acne.
A similar Pharmacy First service is due to launch in England at the end of January 2024.