Community pharmacy needs to be seen as an ‘investable proposition’ in the eyes of NHS commissioners and the government, amid ‘significantly constrained’ resources, the chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for Wales has said.

Speaking via video link at the Sigma Conference 2024, CPhO Andrew Evans described reforms to give the community pharmacy sector in Wales a more clinical role, with one in four pharmacies now offering independent prescribing services.

‘We wanted to make sure that community pharmacy is adequately funded. But that is [within] a situation where resources are significantly constrained. So in order to do that, the sector has to be seen as what we described an investable proposition in the eyes of NHS commissioners and the government.’

The reforms in Wales, which were proposed in 2021 and came into force in April 2022, included a nationally commissioned clinical community pharmacy service that includes minor ailments, contraception and vaccination.

Mr Evans stressed the importance of ‘providing a coherent, consistent offer’ across Wales that the public could understand, which is why all pharmacies wanting to provide any of those services were required to provide them all.

Building on the minor ailments service, independent prescribing services were developed, which are now offered by one in four pharmacies in Wales, Mr Evans said.

And he added: ‘We wanted a workforce with the skills needed to deliver outstanding pharmaceutical care, and to do that we would offer more opportunities for pharmacists to train as independent prescribers to deliver our independent prescribing service.’

He also stressed the importance of making the most of pharmacy technicians in order to ‘realise the opportunities’ for pharmacists.

Community pharmacy in Wales has built a commitment to ‘quality, collaboration [and] integration with other parts of primary care,’ Mr Evans said.

‘And importantly, we reformed the funding structures for community pharmacy so we can properly value their contribution and incentivise more of the behaviours that the NHS wanted to see,’ he added.

Mr Evans highlighted the ‘better outcomes’ for patients that come from seeing the same healthcare professional over time.

‘For community pharmacy, we wanted to reaffirm the role of pharmacies as a source of social capital within our communities,’ he added.

‘We have a big emphasis on community in everything we do.’

According to Mr Evans’ presentation, the reforms have seen ‘a 30% growth in clinical service consultations in which 80% of people say they would otherwise have visited their GP or other NHS service.’

And 27,000 sore throat test and treat consultations have been delivered, while ‘fewer than 25% of those consultations went on to have an antibiotic supplied’, including during the strep A outbreak last December, Mr Evans told the conference.

Meanwhile, in 2022-23, 47,000 prescribing services were delivered by community pharmacy in Wales, with 99% of people using those services saying that they would otherwise have visited their GP, Mr Evans said.