NHS England plans to include 210 community pharmacy sites across 42 integrated care boards in the initial phase of its independent prescribing pathfinder program. This initiative aims to evaluate diverse prescribing models, while refining the framework for commissioning independent prescribing within community pharmacy clinical services.
According to the NHSE, each ICB will define the scope of its facilities to test the application of community pharmacy independent prescribing for delivering commissioned services. NHSE launched an expression of interest process for integrated care systems to join the Pathfinder Programme in January this year.
On its website’s information page, NHSE said that the independent prescribing pathfinder program offers a unique opportunity for community pharmacy to redesign existing pathways and expand its role in providing clinical services within primary care.
NHSE said that ICBs will be urged to fully utilise the skills and capabilities of community pharmacists to enhance clinical services that are already commissioned as advanced pharmaceutical services or to integrate them into locally commissioned services.
ICBs will work with community pharmacy teams to identify pharmacies and local pharmacists for service delivery through the establishment of pathfinder sites. They will also coordinate with other NHS bodies, local authorities, and community organisations engaged in providing integrated care services, the NHSE added.
“The launch of pathfinder sites is a positive step, especially as every ICB can now participate,” said Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at Community Pharmacy England. “The program enables the NHS and community pharmacy to collaboratively address practical and professional concerns essential for the integration of independent prescribing into everyday practice and the NHS contractual framework.”
Buxton said that independent prescribing will be central to numerous future services offered by community pharmacists, aligning with the sector’s Vision formulated by Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund for Community Pharmacy England.
“We are really excited about how independent prescribing will bolster the advancement of community pharmacy services, optimising the clinical skills of pharmacists for the benefit of patients and the NHS,” he added.
In June, the Company Chemists’ Association emphasised increased ambition, speed, and a bold approach from the government and NHS towards harnessing pharmacist independent prescribing. All pharmacists registering post-2026 will acquire independent prescribing capabilities. An estimated 23,000 pharmacists in England lack IP qualifications. As per current plans, training the entire workforce is projected for completion by 2040, according to the CCA.
The Association highlighted that investing in community pharmacy expands NHS capacity, boosts primary care resilience, and enhances patient outcomes.