The number of pharmacies offering an independent prescribing enhanced service within one Welsh health board is due to increase from 11 to 25 ‘over the coming months’, it said.

In a statement, published on its website last week, the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) announced the service expansion as part of its preparation for the ‘busiest winter on record’.

This means that 15% of community pharmacies within the area will soon provide an independent prescribing service.

Patients will be able to receive prescribed medication from their pharmacist for a range of minor illnesses and will give more people access to face-to-face assessments free of charge.

The service — with at least one independent prescriber in a pharmacy — was launched in Wales in 2016. As of July 2021, it had been commissioned in 33 pharmacies across the country, which have collectively delivered more than 16,000 consultations.

Llanidloes Pharmacy, Powys, alone had delivered as many as 7,299 IP-related service consultations as of July 2021.

Elen Jones, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) director for Wales, welcomed the service extension. She said it was timely ‘as we prepare for their busiest winter on record’ and will increase choice and provide better access for patients.

‘This is firmly aligned to our vision in Wales to have an independent prescriber in every community pharmacy. This will enable pharmacists to have a greater contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Wales.

‘We look forward to supporting the further development of this fantastic service which provides great access to care for patients across Wales,’ she said.

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.

Ahead of the Senedd elections in May, Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) reiterated the plans in Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales and urged the Welsh Government to ensure there is at least one independent prescriber in each pharmacy across the country by 2030.

Adam Mackridge, strategic lead for Community Pharmacy at BCUHB, said: ‘We’re encouraging more people with minor illnesses or conditions to take advantage of the free, expert advice

provided at their local community pharmacy, which can usually be accessed more quickly than other services.

‘Pharmacists are highly skilled clinical experts and they are supported by a team of Pharmacy Technicians and other staff who have also undergone comprehensive training.’

He added: ‘As the training to become an Independent Prescribing Pharmacist takes quite a lot of time, the rollout will take time, but new pharmacies will begin providing this service year on year, helping to increase choice and provide better access for patients.’

In September, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) opened a consultation on changing to the current requirements for pharmacists to train as independent prescribers.

The regulatory body is asking for views on the possible removal of the requirement for registered pharmacists to have at least two years of clinical practice experience before enrolling on an accredited independent prescribing course.

It is also considering removing the requirement for pharmacists to have relevant experience in a specific clinical or therapeutic area.

This came soon after a Government-commissioned a review which concluded that the clinical skills of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians need to be upgraded to tackle overprescribing.

Meanwhile, in August, the Scottish Government announced a formal career pathway designed to boost the numbers of independent prescribers working in community pharmacy will be launched in Scotland next year.