Widespread prescribing by pharmacists from 2026 is likely to add a ‘judicious’ approach to medicines prescribing, chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England David Webb suggested at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Annual Conference last week.

With more pharmacists becoming independent prescribers, Mr Webb suggested that the profession could play a role in reducing the overprescribing of medicines.

He suggested that pharmacist prescribers ‘collectively bring a judicious approach to the use of medicines’.

‘I think we might be a prescribing profession that doesn’t choose to prescribe that often because we’re really thinking about the consequence of introducing that therapy and what’s the long-term goal,’ he said.

Mr Webb suggested that pharmacists as a profession might highlight the importance of reviewing and deprescribing medicines where appropriate.

‘’What is the thing that [a pharmacist is] hoping to achieve through this intervention? What’s the time scale? How will we know when we’ve got there? And will we have the courage to subtract it when it’s not doing what’s required? That will be an excellent part of our professional practice,’ he said.

Workforce ‘number one priority’

During a panel discussion, the three CPhOs present – representing Northern Ireland, Scotland and England – also responded to workforce issues facing the sector.

Mr Webb also highlighted the key role of community pharmacy employers in reducing local health inequalities.

Mr Webb was joined by Professor Cathy Harrison, CPhO for Northern Ireland and Alison Strath, CPhO for Scotland.

Ms Harrison told delegates that workforce was her ’number one priority’ as NI CPhO, with a focus on training more pharmacists, developing the skills and responsibilities of pharmacy technicians and freeing up capacity through planned legislative changes, including supervision, hub and spoke dispensing and original pack dispensing.

Mr Webb said that he felt that the vision for the pharmacy workforce in England had been set out in the long term workforce plan.

While he said that the ‘training’ element of the plan ‘grabs everybody’s attention’, he highlighted the importance of improving retention.

‘What is it that's going to motivate our current workforce, to be the best they can be and to stay with us on the journey?’ he asked.

And he added that the final component of the workforce plan – ‘reform’ – was ‘a very interesting place.

‘How does this sit in a truly multi professional context?’ Mr Webb asked.

He echoed Ms Harrison’s comments about skill mix and the need for pharmacy professionals to work at the top of their capability.

In particular, he said that the advent of independent prescribing on a widespread scale was ‘professional behaviour on a new level’ which represented a ‘fundamental shift’ for the pharmacy professions.

And he suggested that an increased understanding of patterns of disease and an aging population might require a different deployment of the workforce.

Ms Strath echoed his comments, saying: ‘In 10 to 20 years, what do you think the health service will look like? How do you think we will be delivering care?’ she asked.

She added: ‘How can we shift the models of care and the way that we work together – not just within the pharmacy professions, but across the other professions?’

Community pharmacy employers can be ‘force for good’

Mr Webb stressed the importance of diversity within the pharmacy workforce, suggesting that community pharmacy employers were uniquely placed to make a difference to health inequalities.

‘If we don't have an inclusive approach to the professions in pharmacy, not only is that kind of morally the wrong place to occupy, but it doesn't derive the benefits that population needs to see, because my fundamental belief is a diverse workforce is better equipped to work with a diverse population and to help that population achieve the things that they need to achieve,’ he said.

In particular, he said that the NHS, ‘as an agent in the context of the social determinants of health’ had ‘a tremendous opportunity to be a force for good’.

And he added that there was ‘unique’ about community pharmacy professionals being embedded within the locations that they serve.

Community pharmacist Mohammed Omar Sarwar recently shared with The Pharmacist how recruiting a diverse team locally helps his pharmacy to be more aware of the needs of their patients.

Parts of this article first appeared on our sister title Hospital Pharmacy Europe.