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‘Making Changes Meeting Needs’ outlines the future

A new document from the NPA sets out what we think community pharmacy can achieve over the next few years – if properly supported, says Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs

This month the NPA published Making Changes Meeting Needs, setting out what a properly supported community pharmacy network is capable of delivering for the NHS and patients in England, until the end of the decade. 

I believe it is visionary yet also based on addressing needs already expressed by patients and the NHS. We hope to strike the sweet spot where pharmacy’s capabilities, patients’ needs and commissioners’ medium-term objectives intersect.

Pharmacist independent prescribing (IP) is a key enabler of some of the clinical service developments we want to see, which encompass long-term conditions and prevention as well as minor ailments.

Patient support 

We know pharmacist prescribing is supported by patients, who understand the benefits to them in terms of convenient access to care. 

Where the public has been given a chance to vote with their feet, for example in Scotland and Wales, they have been very content to think ‘pharmacy first’.

However, among some health professional colleagues there remain some unhelpful assumptions, like the idea
that pharmacist prescribing will inevitably be a spur for antimicrobial resistance. In fact the opposite could be true if we are fully engaged in antimicrobial stewardship.

A lot rests on the success of NHS England’s prescribing pathfinder programme, which will see NHS-funded pharmacist prescribing services in community pharmacies across the whole country from this year. 

Overcoming problems

As these integrated care board-led schemes get underway, we will need to understand that not every scheme will get off the ground easily. In many ways, the whole purpose of the pathfinders is to encounter difficulties and find ways to overcome them. 

As a sector we need to get behind this programme, because opportunities on this scale to test and demonstrate our capabilities do not come along very often. 

Meanwhile, NHS England’s offer of free clinical examination and consultation skills training is still open for applications. It aims to supplement the existing clinical skills of community pharmacists to deal with a variety of presenting symptoms and is a great complement to other IP-related training.

Credit where it is due to NHS England for developing such opportunities for the sector to ready itself for the independent prescribing step-change in 2026.

Returning to Making Changes Meeting Needs, we would love to know what you think of the journey of change we envisage. Please give your views to any of the NPA’s board and staff.

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