Wales has launched a new service which means pharmacies can prescribe drugs including antibiotics, without involving a GP.
Drugs pharmacies can prescribe include routine contraception and treatments for minor ailments, including antibiotics for ear and throat infections. They can also refill repeat prescriptions in an emergency.
The Welsh Government said the shake-up would give patients ‘accessible and convenient’ NHS services ‘closer to home’ which will in turn ‘free up GP and other NHS services for patients with more complex needs’.
Starting this month, over 90 pharmacies have begun offering the service, with the Welsh Government hoping a third of over 700 community pharmacies will have joined before the end of the financial year.
The changes form part of a new agreement between community pharmacy representatives and the Welsh Government, which will also allow appropriately trained pharmacists to treat an extended range of conditions that currently require people to visit their GP.
This agreement will see investment in the prescribing service boosted in the longer term, with funding to increase from £1.2m per year to £20.2m per year by April 2024. The Government also intends to increase funding in pharmacy clinical services from £11.4m to £20m.
Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said the reforms ‘represent the most fundamental change to the way pharmacies operate since the inception of the NHS more than 70 years ago’.
She said: ‘Our new prescription for community pharmacy sets out a collaborative, innovative and progressive approach to the delivery of pharmaceutical care. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and undertake extensive training to help people manage a range of common ailments.’
Pharmacists in all parts of the UK have been able to undertake additional training and practise as prescribers since 2003, although traditionally pharmacist prescribers have worked mainly in hospitals and GP practices.
In England, the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) had seen primary care networks (PCNs) hire 16,000 staff by the end of 2021, including clinical pharmacists.
Additional reporting by Isabel Shaw