Key to the success of Pharmacy First and the expanded contraception and hypertension services are ‘effective and sustainable’ relationships between general practice and community pharmacy teams at a local level, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) has said.

In an end of year letter to community pharmacy teams, David Webb said NHS England (NHSE) was asking local pharmacy leaders to ‘work closely’ with GPs to ‘help reassure and reinforce’ messages around clinical capability and to ‘proactively manage’ concerns about antimicrobial resistance.

The CPhO hailed the agreement of the soon-to-launch Pharmacy First scheme, as well as the recently launched expanded contraception and blood pressure check services, as a ‘pivotal moment’ for the community pharmacy sector.

He added that the plans provided community pharmacies the opportunity to ‘step more fully into its clinical future’.

‘These important developments recognise and build on the commitment already shown by community pharmacy professionals in the development of clinical services over recent years,’ he said.

‘They signal an exciting future in which we can further build on the strong progress the professions have made in helping to manage wider primary care demand and integrating into local health systems.’

While paying tribute to the ‘vital contribution’ made by the sector throughout 2023, Mr Webb encouraged pharmacy owners to sign up to provide the new and updated services which have been introduced under the Primary Care Access Recovery Plan.

Mr Webb stressed these new services were ‘high profile’ and ‘being observed’ by the wider NHS and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The ‘professional reputation’ of community pharmacy professionals ‘is important to us all as practising clinicians’, he noted.

‘I know we all want to achieve excellence, and to provide the best possible care for all communities, including those which are underserved,’ wrote Mr Webb.

‘I encourage you to sign up for the services so that we deliver maximum benefit for the population of England, which would be a great contribution to NHS patient care.’

Alongside pointing to resources for implementation of the services, Mr Webb said there was ‘likely to be a national marketing campaign for Pharmacy First in 2024’.

Meanwhile, the NHS was also offering ‘funded clinical examination skills and training’, he said, which included online and face-to-face sessions on cardiology; ear, nose and throat; paediatrics; and dermatology. The training offer also included support on the use of medical devices such as otoscopes, noted Mr Webb.

He added that the new services were ‘a team endeavour and responsibility, with support needed from general practice and primary care network teams, and from colleagues in integrated care boards (ICBs)’.

Having spoken with the ICB pharmacy leadership group ‘about supporting and facilitating implementation as part of their wider delivery plans’, NHS England was also ‘engaging similarly with national and regional GP organisations and networks’.

‘A key element in our success in realising the full benefits for patients and the NHS will be building effective and sustainable relationships between general practice and community pharmacy teams at a local level,’ said Mr Webb.

‘In particular, we’re asking local pharmacy leaders to work closely with GPs to help reassure and reinforce the messages about clinical capability, and to proactively manage antimicrobial resistance concerns in relation to Pharmacy First.’

Mr Webb thanked those among the sector for their ongoing contribution to the NHS and healthcare and said the new services provided ‘opportunity for community pharmacy to step more fully into its clinical future as part of the integrated NHS primary care team’.

From 31 January 2024, community pharmacies across England will be able to opt-in to provide a common conditions service – subject to the right IT support being ready.

Meanwhile, as of 1 December 2023, pharmacists are now able to initiate oral contraception and trained members of the pharmacy team can deliver blood pressure checks, with the expansion of the Pharmacy Contraception Service and the Hypertension Case-Finding Service coming into force.