A formal career pathway designed to boost the numbers of independent prescribers working in community pharmacy will be launched in Scotland next year, the Scottish Government has said.

Under the plans, contractors will receive funding for supporting newly-qualified pharmacists to complete a national foundation programme. On successful completion of the programme, those pharmacists will then be able to transition onto a fully-funded independent prescribing course.

Separate entry streams for qualified community pharmacists wanting to gain their independent prescribing qualification, and for independent prescribers wishing to undertake the common clinical conditions training are to be announced at a later date, the Government said.

The plans were set out in a letter sent to community pharmacists earlier this week (11 August), which said the aim is for the first funded cohort to start training in September 2021.

Extended common clinical conditions service

The announcement follows the launch of the new NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service, which was introduced last month as a replacement for the existing minor illnesses service in the country.

The letter said that increasing the number of independent prescribers will support the Pharmacy First service by ‘maximising pharmacists’ expertise in medicines’, as well as enhancing the ‘pharmacy networks’ role in the clinical pathway of patients’ and reducing the number of patient group directions needed.

Pharmacies that have an independent prescriber working on the premises will also be able to offer NHS Pharmacy First Plus, an extension to the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service for patients presenting with a common clinical condition. This is beyond the scope of the standard NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service and would otherwise require onward referral to another healthcare professional, the letter said.

A monthly fee of £2,000 will be made to each contractor who provides NHS Pharmacy First Plus for a minimum of 25 hours per week, for a minimum of 45 weeks of the year.

The Scottish Government and Community Pharmacy Scotland are investing £1.3m in the new career pathway, and £3.3m is being set aside from the 2020-21 Global Sum allocation to support contractors who deliver the NHS Pharmacy First Plus service, the letter added.

‘Shared vision’

A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Scotland said the new pathway will be ‘a fundamental building block on which care is built, and we are delighted to see these plans put in motion.’

They added: ‘Community Pharmacy Scotland and the Scottish Government’s shared vision is to have a prescribing pharmacist in every community pharmacy to better support the people of Scotland by providing enhanced pharmaceutical care.

‘The network’s investment in this programme and the NHS Pharmacy First Plus service demonstrates our commitment to supporting the NHS and the people of Scotland – and to making community pharmacy an even more attractive career choice than it already is.’