All community pharmacies in Wales will be able to offer an extended range of clinical services from next year to take workload off GPs, the Welsh chief pharmaceutical officer Andrew Evans has said.
From April 2022, more services, including treatment for common minor ailments, access to repeat medicines in an emergency, annual flu vaccinations, and emergency contraception will be available from more pharmacies across Wales.
Speaking to The Pharmacist yesterday (15 December), Mr Evans said the widespread reforms to the pharmacy contractual framework will help provide more ‘consistent’ access to care for patients across Wales.
‘We’ve been working on these reforms for some time and talking for a number of years on how we need to fully utilise the skills of pharmacists and pharmacy teams,’ he said.
‘We’re asking for much for in terms of clinical services, which includes training many more pharmacists to be independent prescribers so they can increase their skills and therefore increase the range of people and conditions they can treat.’
He has called the changes ‘the most significant reform to community pharmacy contractual arrangements in the last 70 years, right since the inception of the NHS’.
As it stands, pharmacies in Wales can pick and choose which clinical services they provide but from April ‘any pharmacy which provides one of the core services will have to provide them with all,’ he explained.
‘This consistency will also help patients understand when they can use their pharmacy,’ he added.
The shake-up comes after renegotiation of the agreement with Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW).
‘It will take the workload away from the GPs, making the NHS more sustainable and letting them treat the common and acute conditions,’ Judy Thomas of CPW told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.
‘I think the public will be quite receptive. Their response during the pandemic has been positive.’
Commenting on the changes, Eluned Morgan, the Health Minister said: ‘Pharmacists are experts in medicines and undertake extensive training to help people manage a range of common ailments.
‘Utilising the skills of community pharmacy teams will mean we can better meet the needs of the NHS and people in Wales now and for future generations.
‘We are always looking for innovative ways for our health service to improve services for patients and these substantial reforms will help pharmacies better meet the changing expectations of Welsh citizens and the NHS.’
As well as implementing new services in pharmacies, the Welsh Government has provided funding for dispensing robots.
The dispensing robots will allow prescriptions to be collected from pharmacies 24 hours a day improving convenience for people collecting prescriptions.
‘It will also make and make pharmacies more efficient by freeing up pharmacists to deliver the clinical services which will take pressure off other areas of the NHS – particularly general practice,’ Mr Evans added.
Under the Governments new deal, funding for the new community pharmacy clinics service will increase ‘significantly’ from £11.4m to £20m per year by 2024.
‘Pharmacists will see pharmacy funding next year increase by £8.6m compared with there years ago,’ he added.
The Government will also invest an additional £19m per year into the independent prescribing services. This means that by April 2022, funding for independent prescribing services will increase from £1.2m to £20.2m per year.
Initially, pharmacist prescribers will be able to prescribe medicines for acute illnesses like urinary tract and upper respiratory tract infections, and also prescribe routine contraception.
In 2018, RPS Wales and the Government published Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales, in which they outlined plans for an independent prescriber in every community pharmacy by 2030.