Community pharmacies in the north west of England could begin offering an independent prescribing service from July 2023, following an expressions of interest (EOI) process that will start later in April 2023, The Pharmaceutical Journal has learned.
A newsletter from Community Pharmacy Lancashire, sent on 14 April 2023, reported that three integrated care boards (ICBs) are inviting community pharmacy contractors to register their interest to become a pilot site for the community pharmacy independent prescribing programme from 24 April 2023.
This comes after ICBs were invited to submit bids to NHS England in January 2023 for additional funding to run the pharmacist prescribing pilots.
The newsletter, signed by Julie Lonsdale, clinical lead for community pharmacy integration at NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB, said that all three ICBs in the northwest region have applied through the national EOI process “for funding to establish pathfinder sites”.
The three ICBs located in NHS England’s northwest region are NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, NHS Greater Manchester and NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria.
“The aim is to establish a framework for the future commissioning of NHS community pharmacy clinical services incorporating independent prescribing for patients in primary care,” the newsletter said, adding that ICBs “have been asked to design service delivery models that align with the objectives for the programme”.
These include informing “the post 2019–2024 community pharmacy contractual framework clinical strategy” and identifying “the ICB delegation responsibilities necessary to support national and local commissioning of community pharmacy clinical services that may include access to independent prescribing”.
The newsletter also said that the three ICBs will “describe their plans to date and the services they are prioritising and developing” during a webinar for community pharmacy contractors on 24 April 2023.
“For pharmacies to register their interest in involvement with this programme we will be launching an EOI process, and this will be launched and described during the webinar to support pharmacies to be involved and express interest in becoming a pathfinder site.”
A spokesperson for NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 17 April 2023 that the regional EOI will be “open for two weeks”.
“Based on a survey out to all [community pharmacists], we have estimated a possible 20 independent prescribers who may express an interest, but we may get more or fewer than this. After receiving the EOI, we will be assessing and reviewing against the funding allocated,” they said.
“We plan to notify people in May  and start working with sites in May/June, and are providing training in June also. Anticipated go live will depend on getting sites set up which will include an IT solution, and we hope for this to be in July.”
The pathfinder pilots, revealed by The Pharmaceutical Journal in August 2022, will trial the first ever independent pharmacist prescribing service to be fully funded by the NHS in England.
In September 2022, Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, said the pathfinder sites would launch in January 2023, following a call for expressions of interest between October and November 2022.
However, a response from NHS England to a freedom of information request, received in January 2023, revealed that this start date was delayed “to allow for input into the process from regional stakeholders”, with the process due to be completed by March 2023.