All community pharmacies in Cymru will be able to offer an extended range of services from April 2022 as part of "substantial reforms" agreed by the Health Minister.
The changes mean patients will have 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.
The Health Minister Eluned Morgan has approved changes following re-negotiation of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework with Community Pharmacy Wales, the representative body for community pharmacies in Cymru.
The agreement will introduce a national clinical community pharmacy service enabling all pharmacies to provide treatment for common minor ailments, access to repeat medicines in an emergency, annual flu vaccinations, and some forms of emergency and regular contraception.
The agreement also includes plans to roll out a Cymru-wide pharmacy prescribing service which will "allow appropriately trained pharmacists to treat an extended range of conditions that currently require people to visit their GP".
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “The reforms to the community pharmacy contractual framework represent the most fundamental change to the way pharmacies operate since the inception of the NHS more than 70 years ago.”
“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. Utilising the skills of community pharmacy teams will mean we are able to better meet the needs of the NHS and people in Wales now and for future generations.
“We are always looking for innovative ways for our health service to improve services for patients and these substantial reforms will help pharmacies better meet the changing expectations of Welsh citizens and the NHS.”
Russell Goodway, Chief Executive at Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) said: “Community pharmacists have argued for many years that they could make a greater contribution to the needs of NHS Wales and its patient population by delivering a wider range of clinical services.
“The Covid-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated that to be the case and CPW is delighted to have been able to work collaboratively with Welsh Government, during challenging times, to develop a new contractual framework for community pharmacies in Wales which will make the local pharmacy the first port of call for a range of clinical services dealing with a host of conditions which at the moment require a GP appointment.
“This agreement bodes well for the community pharmacy network across Wales and will avoid the pitfalls facing colleagues in England where funding for community pharmacies has been cut.”
Initially pharmacist prescribers will be able to prescribe medicines for acute illnesses like urinary tract and upper respiratory tract infections, and also prescribe routine contraception.
By April 2024 funding for independent prescribing services will increase from £1.2m to £20.2m per year and funding for the community pharmacy clinical services will increase from £11.4m to £20.0m per year.
Funding continues to be made available to support for pharmacists undertaking independent prescribing training and pre-registration pharmacy technician training.
In addition to the reforms, the Welsh Government has provided funding for pharmacies to implement innovative automated systems. Dispensing robots and ATM style prescription systems that allow prescriptions to be collected 24 hours a day will improve convenience for people collecting prescriptions and make pharmacies more efficient, providing greater access to the clinical services available.
Since April 2019, 24 pharmacies across Cymru have benefited from an investment of nearly £500,000 to support adopting new and innovative technologies.