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Community pharmacy vision calls for pharmacist-free pharmacies

Supporters say this will level the playing field between pharmacies and dispensing GPs

September 19th 2023

Tagged: DDA news political news Pharmacy owners' news England

By Ailsa Colquhoun

Community pharmacies opening without a pharmacist on site and sustainable changes to control of entry regulations for pharmacies are among the recommendations of a new vision for community pharmacy.

A Vision for Community Pharmacy, commissioned by Community Pharmacy England, points to a clinical service led future for community pharmacies. This will need to be supported by legislative changes that allow dispensing without a pharmacist on site and additional roles for pharmacy technicians. According to the report authors, this will “level the playing field between dispensing general practice and community pharmacy”.

The report also touches on pharmacy control of entry, proposing that ICBs should be able to ensure that the number and location of pharmacies in their areas “meet the needs of patients and the public and sustainable within the resources available”. One suggestion is that community pharmacists could work from GP surgeries, community health service clinics or other locations.

The authors, which represent the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, say that without effective commissioning and market management, there is a danger that economic pressures will drive closures without reference to need. Many contributors to the report spoke about the potential for developing ‘hub and spoke’ dispensing models and increased use of distance selling pharmacies by patients.

On dispensing, the report highlights the lengthy period of declining real-terms funding – the shared effect of which on dispensing GPs was highlighted by the DDA during the preparation of this report. This has been largely driven by the belief that there were efficiencies or profits within the dispensing and supply chain that could help support the rest of the NHS at a time of financial challenge, the report posits.