NHS England (NHSE) will allocate £12m in funding for the independent prescribing pathfinder programme, a portion of which will be available to pharmacies involved in the delivery of the programme, The Pharmacist has learned.

The pilot, which was launched last week, will test how different models of pharmacist independent prescribing could work.

And it will include up to 210 community pharmacy sites across 42 Integrated Care Boards (ICBs).

In particular, the pathfinder programme will evaluate how community pharmacist prescribing could be used across three broad categories of services: within existing pharmacy commissioned services, the management of long term conditions, and novel services such as deprescribing, reviewing antidepressants, and menopause services.

Through the pilot, NHSE is exploring the use of independent prescribing in community pharmacy to manage cardiovascular disease like hypertension or lipid optimisation, such as prescribing statins or anticoagulation in atrial fibrillation hypertension, as well as in respiratory disease such as for inhaler optimisation or rescue therapy.

Community pharmacies participating in the independent prescribing pathfinder project will be able to claim for funding to support the set up costs of the programme, including IT support, as well as the costs of evaluating the programme and operational readiness.

This comes from a total £12m in funding for the independent prescribing pathfinder project, which will be allocated to participating ICBs and will be used for project management, clinical mentoring, peer networks, supporting prescribing pharmacists, and evaluating the project.

There will be no additional funding made available for medicines costs which will continue be funded from existing ICB allocations.

The details of the funding were shared in a letter sent to ICBs last week and shared with The Pharmacist by NHSE.

The pathfinder programme will run from July 2023 until March 2024.

Initial payments are being paid to ICBs this month, and a further funding allocation will be made for additional set up costs once they have been identified and where they are considered ‘essential to support the service delivery’.

NHSE also said that a national process was underway to secure IT license for an assured Electronic Prescription Service web-based solution to support Pathfinder pharmacy sites.

Community pharmacy leaders have welcomed the launch of the pilot and its focus on exploring routes for service delivery through community pharmacy.

But James Davies, director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England, warned that the timelines set out for the project were ‘tight’, ‘placing a huge ask on pharmacy teams and ICBs to get things working quickly’.