David Webb with Debra Humphris and Summer

Pharmacists will play an increasing role in front-line clinical healthcare, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer tells pharmacy students at Brighton

The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, David Webb, on his visit to the university, told students that this was an exciting moment for the profession.

In a speech to staff and students at the University of Brighton this week, David Webb said that changes such as the introduction of prescribing skills training to the undergraduate MPharm degree and the Pharmacy First initiative will mean that pharmacists play an increasingly important role in primary healthcare delivery.

David Webb told the audience: “From 2026, all newly-qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers. The aim is to enable better patient care and use of skill mix in pharmacy and enable effective deployment of the skills and knowledge of Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This is an exciting step towards opening new horizons, across all sectors, including urgent care.”

He described the development of independent prescribing as part of initial education and training of pharmacists as “a gamechanger for pharmacy professional practice, medicines optimisation and patient care, with approximately 2,800 newly-registered pharmacist independent prescribers due to join the workforce every year.”

“This will be transformational for all pharmacy settings, creating improved access and quality of care for patients and the potential to improve medicines use including stopping medicines where appropriate. The new initial education and training standards for pharmacists create a more flexible workforce with skills that are equally applicable in all pharmacy settings, enabling multi-professional clinical teams to work in new ways.”

Mr Webb also spoke about the Pharmacy First service, launched in January which enables community pharmacies to supply NHS medicines for seven conditions and includes increased provision of the community pharmacy NHS Pharmacy Contraception Service and the Blood Pressure Check Service.

The changes to the provision of pharmacy services have been welcomed by academics at University of Brighton who say the potential access to expert guidance on minor illnesses, preventive care and self-management from pharmacists could free up around 10 million GP appointments.

Dr Greg Scutt, Clinical Principal Lecturer in the university’s School of Applied Sciences, said: “With eight in 10 patients living within a twenty-minute walk of community pharmacies with extended opening hours compared to the local GP surgery, the Pharmacy First service represents a pivotal shift toward community pharmacies playing a more active role in healthcare delivery, benefiting patients and the healthcare system.”

The implementation of the scheme coincides with a major review of Pharmacy degrees at the University of Brighton.

With the aim of expanding the role of the pharmacists, the MPharm Degrees at Brighton focus on developing the clinical and professional skills of students across multiple areas including patient assessment and clinical interventions.

Claire May, Senior Lecturer in Medicines Use in the School of Applied Sciences, said: “The current pharmacy programmes at the University of Brighton prepare students to fit seamlessly into this scheme after their Foundation Year training and registration. Over the course of the four-year curriculum, they are equipped with the skills to undertake comprehensive patient assessment, make shared clinical decisions to inform diagnosis and decide on treatment options, and prescribe, educate, monitor and evaluate care.”

“Through the teaching of supporting scientific knowledge, simulation of clinical skills and clinical application through extensive multi-sector placements, Brighton Pharmacy graduates are prepared to run diagnostics around full cardiovascular and respiratory examinations, ENT examination, amongst others taking into account evidence-based medicine and shared decision-making.”

As part of their training, at least 300 pharmacy students at the University of Brighton are on placement, interacting with patients both in the community as well as in the hospital. Upon completion they will join several thousands of Brighton-trained pharmacists practicing in the UK and across the world.

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