The future

Published on: 15th February 2022 | Updated on: 31st March 2023

Whilst dispensing medicines safely will always remain the central role of pharmacies, there is likely to be a shift to offering services that help people to stay healthy and take pressure off other NHS services, such as urgent care. This will include prevention and treating minor illnesses, with pharmacies working closely with GPs and other providers in Primary Care Networks.

The Government has made clear through the NHS Long Term Plan that it wants to better utilise the skills and reach of community pharmacy. However, this will require the sector to embrace a series of changes. The following animation describes the transformation that community pharmacies will need to undertake over the coming months and years.

Future of Pharmacy Animation

Vision for the future

Community pharmacies are a critical part of the NHS and they have much more to offer to benefit patients, local communities and local healthcare systems. With proper financial support pharmacies could make real progress on:

  • Prevention: Healthy Living Pharmacies can do much to help;
  • Levelling up health inequalities, particularly after the pandemic;
  • Tackling obesity and other health factors that have contributed to the UK COVID-19 deaths;
  • Provision of enhanced community and public health care;
  • Ongoing provision of COVID-19 booster vaccinations; and
  • Providing first port of call help to support GPs to return to pre-COVID activity.

In October 2019, a five-year deal for community pharmacies came into effect. This set out a pathway of clinical service development for the sector. As part of the deal, funding was fixed and the Government committed to exploring ways to make dispensing more efficient and to free up pharmacist and pharmacy teams time and capacity. Revised pharmacy terms of service would also be introduced to reflect the different ways in which people use and access online services and the way these services are provided.

Funding and operational barriers

When the five-year deal was agreed, community pharmacy funding was set at £2.592bn per year. Government also committed to working with Community Pharmacy England on measures that would help to release capacity in the sector. Delivering all the services within that constrained funding envelope was always recognised to be a challenge for the sector, and with COVID-19 pressures and the lack of progress on capacity-releasing work for pharmacies, the situation is now even more challenging than had been anticipated.

Community Pharmacy England has been arguing strongly for an uplift in core pharmacy funding to take into account the chronic underfunding that the sector is experiencing, and in recognition of the significant financial and capacity challenges that all pharmacies are currently dealing with. Unfortunately, the Government has rejected any uplift to the funding for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) for 2021/22. This will pose considerable challenges for many pharmacy businesses as they try to embrace the positive service changes this year, while also managing cashflow as they pay back COVID-19 loans.

Community Pharmacy England Briefing: Community Pharmacy Funding and Capacity
This Community Pharmacy England Briefing describes the current situation regarding community pharmacy funding and capacity, including information that was used in recent negotiations with HM Government.

  • Changes will be made to the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013 to include a pandemic provision: this relates to the protection of staff and patients in a pandemic.
  • There is also agreement to continue conversations with DHSC on regulation of the dispensing and supply of medicines, taking into account novel ways of undertaking these services.
  • Discussions will be progressed on a suitable process to investigate allegations of prescription direction: this helps to ensure that patients retain free choice of which pharmacy to use.
  • DHSC has also confirmed its intention to progress legislation on original pack dispensing of medicines, and the wider use of hub and spoke technology.

In addition, a revised Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) commenced from January 2022. The scheme seeks to ensure that all patients have access to a pharmacy, even in remote areas.