Pharmacy First could open up routes for community pharmacy to play a greater role in healthcare, the chief pharmaceutical officers (CPhOs) for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have suggested.

And they agreed that now having a service across all four nations would help the public to view community pharmacies as a place to receive clinical care.

Speaking on a panel via a live video link at the Sigma Conference today, Professor Cathy Harrison, CPhO for Northern Ireland, said that Pharmacy First ‘could go very far’ and ‘very fast’, adding: ‘I think we should do that’.

‘There's a lot of [health] space that we can go into across all of our four countries that will be undisputed. And I think that's the key thing: let’s move far, let’s move fast, let’s embed [Pharmacy First],’ she said.

Also speaking on the video link panel, CPhO for England David Webb described Pharmacy First as ‘a great wrapper’ into which further clinical services could be ‘bundled’.

He said it was ‘really helpful’ that accessing clinical services through Pharmacy First would ‘mean something to the public across all of the UK’.

‘I think it can go further. I think there can be more things that are put into that care package. But I think what's also important is that it is a bundle of clinical services that the public can recognise,’ he added.

Alison Strath, CPhO for Scotland, also speaking on the panel, described Pharmacy First as a ‘really exciting’ development that was happening across all four countries, suggesting that sharing experiences between nations might help ‘galvanise’ the services.

And she said that Pharmacy First was a ‘critical area’ to help ease pressure on the NHS by utilising the clinical skills of the community pharmacy sector, as well as prescribing skills when that becomes more widespread.

Ms Strath suggested there might be ‘great potential’ for community pharmacy to play a role on chronic disease management, deprescribing and genomics.

‘As the NHS starts to shift care from hospitals into the community setting, we are going to need all these extra pharmacists and the wider support team to help free up pharmacist time,’ Ms Strath added.

Meanwhile, CPhO for Wales Andrew Evans said he thought Pharmacy First had ‘great potential’ ‘as a concept rather than a service’.

‘What we need is a culture shift that people understand: they go to their pharmacy and they get the sort of care that pharmacists are capable of providing and that isn't constrained by [a] transactional model [that's] delivered by services,’ he said.

While he said that commissioned services were needed ‘in the short term’, when pharmacists graduate as prescribers from 2026, this could help enable pharmacists to ‘maximise the opportunity to help us deliver care’.