Health on the high street: rethinking the role of community pharmacy

01 / 10 / 2013

The NHS has historically undervalued the role that community pharmacy can play in improving and maintaining the public’s health. This paper discusses how best public health services might be commissioned from community pharmacy within the new system architecture.

This paper outlines the recommendations of a task group of the Pharmacy and Public Health Forum.

The task group was chaired by Mike Farrar while chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and included representatives from across public health, local government, commissioning organisations and pharmacy.

The task group believes, and evidence is emerging, that the potential role community pharmacy can play in improving and
maintaining the nation’s health is undervalued.

As trusted and professional partners in supporting individual, family and community health, sitting at the heart of our communities, effective community pharmacy services have a significant and increased role to play in ensuring we have a sustainable healthcare system and that the NHS is able to survive and thrive over the coming decades.

However, this will require commissioners, providers, patients and the public to be more aware of community pharmacy’s role alongside other primary and community care services. The new health and public health commissioning system needs to invest a greater proportion of resources strategically in community pharmacy as a supplier of public health services.

A coherent approach to commissioning public health services from community pharmacies is vital – this will need to balance the need for national consistency and efficiency with the necessity for local innovation and customisation to local circumstances. The principles for commissioning public health services from community pharmacy should include:

  • integration of community pharmacy’s role with that of other elements of the health and public health system
  • strong information flows between providers and commissioners
  • local flexibility in commissioning from community pharmacy alongside other providers
  • patient and public involvement in decisions
  • a robust evidence base to underpin decisions.

It will also be important for commissioners to stimulate innovation to maximise the opportunities for community pharmacy to support the improvement of the public’s health.


Public Health England, the Department of Health, NHS England, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), public health organisations, the NHS Confederation and others should work together to make available best practice and examples of innovative service design.

Practical issues such as short-term contracting need to
be addressed. We would like to see the Healthy Living Pharmacy concept and thinking adopted and accelerated across the country.

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