Pulling together the pieces of the NHS’ plan to transform community pharmacy

The CCA has taken stock of longstanding and recent announcements related to community pharmacy and identified the various pieces of the puzzle, which, if combined have the potential to transform patient care through community pharmacy.

Read the CCA’s ‘Future of Community Pharmacy in England’ paper here.

Since the NHS Long-Term Plan (2019), various policy commitments point to a ‘blueprint’ for community pharmacy in England. The CCA has compiled each of these commitments into a single analysis, explaining how the blueprint can now be implemented.

Each commitment can be considered as a single piece needed to complete the puzzle. Unless all pieces of the puzzle are put together, the transformation of patient access through community pharmacy will be incomplete.

There are four major pieces of the puzzle:

  • Building on education and training reforms to increase the size and capability of the workforce.
  • Expanding the number of clinical services commissioned and delivered in community pharmacy.
  • Introducing digital enablers which underpin service delivery.
  • Introducing legislative changes to increase capacity and allow the delivery of more patient-facing clinical care.

Recent announcements, including those in the Primary Care Recovery Plan and the NHS Workforce Plan are welcome, but focus must now turn to implementation. Otherwise, landmark opportunities such as Independent Prescribing will, unfortunately, not be fully grasped. This will require:

  • A spirit of collaboration comprising careful planning and partnership working between policymakers and the sector.
  • Clear goals and milestones enabling the impact of changes to patients to be measured and pharmacy businesses to assess the cost and benefit, to support further investment.
  • Timely and effective implementation which addresses the scale and urgency of patient and NHS need.

There must also be recognition of the fact that the announcements fail to address the current challenges facing the sector. This includes the historic shortfall in funding1 and the continued workforce crisis, exacerbated by the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS)2.

Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the CCA said:

“The blueprint to transform the future of community pharmacy has been set. When we piece the puzzle together, the vision is very positive. But, if any piece of the puzzle is left out, patients will not benefit from the transformation of community pharmacy.

The challenges in the sector are significant. Historic underfunding, a continued workforce crisis and continued delays in the rollout of promised efficiencies have created a perfect storm. We still need action for the ‘here and now’, otherwise the pharmacy network will continue to deteriorate.

Ultimately success will depend on ambitious implementation. Cooperation and collaboration between policymakers and the sector are crucial if patients are to truly benefit nationwide.”


  • NHS Long Term Workforce Plan – The first comprehensive workforce plan focuses on retaining existing talent and making best use of new technology alongside the biggest recruitment drive in health service. Further information is available here.
  • The ‘Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’, referred to here as the Primary Care Recovery Plan, published on 9th May 2023, outlined plans to commission a Pharmacy First service in England.  The service, which will cover seven common conditions (sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections), is expected to launch before the end of 2023.
  • Additional Recruitment Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) –  The ARRS scheme provides funding for 26,000 additional roles, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, within Primary Care Networks. Further information is available here.


1  –  CCA Funding gap in England equates to more than £67,000 per pharmacy, January 2023

2  – CCA NHS recruitment of pharmacists set to wipe out eight years’ worth of growth of the pharmacist workforce in England, May 2023

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