Community pharmacies should shift further into clinical service provision, with the dispensing of medication becoming an ‘increasingly automated’ side offering, NHS England’s primary care director has said.

Dr Amanda Doyle shared her ambition for the sector in a panel discussion at the NHS Confederation’s primary care conference on Wednesday, explaining that Pharmacy First was the ‘first step’ towards making her vision a reality.

Discussing the challenges for primary care, Dr Doyle observed that ‘demand is huge’.

She added: ‘We have recognised that there are high volumes of generally low-complexity conditions that present to general practice, and that was what drove the thinking around Pharmacy First.’

Echoing a view expressed this week by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, Dr Doyle said that community pharmacy represents a ‘huge untapped pool of clinical capability’ but had traditionally been a service that ‘dispenses tablets with a little bit of service provision on the side’.

She told conference delegates: ‘I want to move community pharmacy to being a clinical service provider as part of the offer in the neighbourhood or in the community for people, with some increasingly automated dispensing of tablets on the side.’

Dr Doyle added: ‘In 2026, all graduate pharmacists will be independent prescribers, and that is a game-changer for general practice as well as community pharmacy.

‘We really see community pharmacy as a big part of the future of clinical service provision.’