Pharmacists will be more likely to have ‘portfolio careers’ across general practice and community pharmacy, with the introduction of independent prescribing on a widespread scale, the deputy chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England has said.

At an event for members of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) on 29 September, Dr Bruce Warner responded to a question about how community pharmacies could retain independent prescribers when GPs received funding to employ them.

Dr Warner said: ‘I don't think it is about competing with GPs. I think it's about asking ourselves, why do people want to go elsewhere and what we do to make working in community pharmacy a much more exciting place where people want to be?’

He added that he thought that many people would end up working ‘portfolio careers, flexible careers, working a couple of days a week in community pharmacy, and a couple of days a week in general practice’.

Dr Warner also said that ‘we need to make working in community pharmacy a much more exciting place where people want to be’.

In 2019, NHS England and the British Medical Association (BMA) announced a five-year funding contract that would pay the 70% of the first-year salary of a pharmacist employed in general practice.

At the AIMp event, one delegate said that his pharmacy trained pharmacists as independent prescribers only to see them move on to work in general practice, and asked Dr Warner how community pharmacy could hope to retain the workforce.

‘The funding [compared to GPs] isn’t a level playing field, I can't do anything about that,’ Dr Warner said.

However, he also argued that community pharmacy has the ‘opportunity’ and ‘prospects’ to be a ‘really exciting, professionally rewarding place to work’ in the next few years, citing the possibility of independent prescribing to enable pharmacists to manage long term conditions.

He said: ‘At the moment, I don't need to tell you, it's really, really hard work and probably not as professionally rewarding as people are looking for.

‘But we can change that. And I think the [independent prescribing pathfinder pilot] programme we're talking about this morning will help change that. It's not going to be an overnight fix. But I think it's incumbent on all of us to make sure people want to work in community pharmacy, for whatever range of reasons.’

At the same event, Dr Warner and Head of Pharmacy Integration for NHS England Anne Joseph outlined plans for a pathfinder pilot programme in England to identify how widespread independent prescribing could work in practice, ahead of new graduates entering the workforce as IPs from 2026.

Dr Warner also said that Integrated Care Boards ‘offer a genuine opportunity, for the first time, to bring sectors together and to allow us to think about how we work within pathways in a multidisciplinary team approach to patient care, bringing in all sectors’.

He said that ICBs aim to improve outcomes in population health, tackle inequalities, enhance productivity and value and support social and economic development. He added that pharmacy has ‘a lot to offer on every one of those things’ and that ‘we need to try and take advantage of that.’