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Wales: Pharmacies lose ‘up to’ 20% of prescribers to GP practices each year

An estimated 20% of pharmacists who qualify as independent prescribers end up leaving community pharmacy to join GP surgeries every year, Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) has revealed.

Independent prescribing pilot services first launched in Wales in 2018/2019.

In the first year of the services, which were not present in every health board, pharmacies lost "as much as 50%" of those who completed their prescribing training, CPW director of contractor services, Judy Thomas told delegates during a session on independent prescribing in Wales and Scotland at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham earlier this month.

Read more: Services ‘just as important’ as dispensing, says Welsh pharmacy chief

Pharmacists who had achieved the accreditation in the early days of the pilots were keen to use their skills, and where this was not possible in community pharmacy, they looked for settings where they would be able to, Ms Thomas explained.

"So that’s why we lost people initially, in that very first year," she added.

"Since then, we have probably been losing anything up to about 20%. That’s an estimate," Ms Thomas told delegates. "So, it’s really difficult".

There are also "more independent prescribing jobs" than there are available "independent prescribers" in Wales, she added.

The new nationally commissioned independent prescribing service was only launched across Wales in April this year.

 

"An ambitious plan"

 

Under the three-year community pharmacy contract in Wales, unveiled last December, the Welsh government pledged to increase funding set aside for independent prescribing services from £1.2 million to £20.2 million per year by 2024.

It also committed to fund training for "at least" 60 more independent prescribers every year.

"There is an ambitious plan in Wales to offer independent prescribing training to every single pharmacist who wants it by 2026," Ms Thomas told Pharmacy Show delegates.

Read more: Welsh government pumps cash into national pharmacy clinical service

Currently, 100 community pharmacists are undertaking the training, while there are plans to increase this to 150 places "next year and then 175 in future years", she added.

However, "in reality that may be a challenge", she noted. "If you’re releasing 175 people, obviously, you’ve got to backfill 175 people as well."

Wales is facing "capacity issues within community pharmacy" she revealed, which on top of workforce challenges faced across all UK nations "isn’t helping".

 

"Just under 20%" of pharmacies offer service

 

Since April 1, however, 134 pharmacies in Wales are offering the independent prescribing service, accounting for "just under 20% of our pharmacies", Ms Thomas noted. "That’s huge".

Since June 2020, over 27,000 independent prescribing consultations have also been recorded through Choose Pharmacy, with 3,352 consultations recorded during August 2022 alone, she added.

"It’s creating some really good relationships and referral pathways with GP practices," she added.

"As with any service, you always have people who are leading the way and we have 10 pharmacies in Wales who are consistently providing over 100 consultations a month, and about three or four pharmacies who are consistently providing over 200 consultations, per month, every month," she told delegates.

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