Analysis Community pharmacy

Community pharmacy: moving from dispensing to diagnosis and treatment

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 11 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2298
  1. Elizabeth Richardson, research assistant ,
  2. Allyson M Pollock, professor
  1. 1Centre for International Public Health Policy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9AG
  1. Correspondence to: A M Pollock allyson.pollock{at}
  • Accepted 11 April 2010

Changes to the NHS community pharmacy contract have meant a shift of services from NHS primary care to the for profit community pharmacy sector. Elizabeth Richardson and Allyson M Pollock look at the extent of the changes to community pharmacy in the UK, and explain the implications.

Deregulation and changes to the NHS community pharmacy contract in England and Wales have allowed for the shift of clinical services from NHS primary care to the for profit community pharmacy sector.

In 2005 the UK government implemented reforms to the organisation and delivery of community pharmacy services and the rules governing market entry in England.1 2 The government argues that expanding the range of services provided by community pharmacies will increase access and patient choice, reduce general practitioner workload, and lower costs to the NHS.3 Whereas the 2003 Health and Social Care Act enabled primary care organisations to contract with the private sector for the provision of primary care services,4 the 2005 NHS (pharmaceuticals services) regulations allow community pharmacies in England and Wales to provide a new range of services to the NHS, some of which were once the reserve of general practitioners.

Changes to the UK community pharmacy sector

The community pharmacy market

Community pharmacies have been independent contractors to the NHS since 1948. A pharmacy can only dispense NHS prescriptions under contract with a primary care organisation. By law, a pharmacy must be owned by a pharmacist or a company that employs a designated superintendent pharmacist.5 No limits are placed on how many pharmacies one company may own.

There are three classes of drugs in the United Kingdom: prescription, pharmacy (sold without prescription but under the general supervision of a pharmacist), and general sales list. The first two can be provided only in a pharmacy, but general sales list drugs may be sold in any retail outlet. …

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