NHS England has said it plans to include up to 210 community pharmacies as independent prescribing pilot sites, according to Community Pharmacy England (CPE).
This follows the confirmation earlier in August 2023 that at least one pharmacy in each of England’s 42 integrated care boards (ICBs) will take part in the independent prescribing pathfinder pilot.
NHS England opened an expression of interest process for ICBs to take part in the pathfinder programme in January 2023, with all 42 ICBs submitting proposals.
NHS England has now written to ICBs with more detail on the programme, CPE said.
NHS England’s new independent prescribing webpage says the central aim is to support and test different prescribing models to “help inform and develop the framework for the commissioning of independent prescribing as part of clinical services in community pharmacy”.
The website also says that scope for pathfinder sites will be determined by ICBs, which will be urged to “fully utilise” the skills and capabilities of community pharmacists to build on clinical services already commissioned as advanced pharmaceutical services or add into locally commissioned services.
The NHS England independent prescribing webpage says ICBs will work with community pharmacy teams to identify the pharmacies and local pharmacists that will deliver the service by becoming a pathfinder site, as well as other NHS bodies, local authorities and community organisations involved in delivering joined-up care.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at Community Pharmacy England, commented: “The launch of the pathfinder sites is a really positive development, particularly with each ICB now being allowed to participate in the programme.
“The programme will allow the NHS and community pharmacy to work through the practical and professional issues, which need to be addressed before independent prescribing can be embedded in day-to-day practice and within the NHS contractual framework.”
However, Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, warned that the pathfinder initiative “raises more questions than it answers right now”.
“The current funding challenges will detract the energies and attention of many contractors as they wrestle to stay open, never mind venture into new clinical frontiers,” she said.