The last 100 years of community pharmacy

As we celebrate the NPA's centenary we look back at all the key moments over the last 100 years.

1921: The Retail Pharmacists Union is formed (later to become the National Pharmacy Association). This was after the Jenkins case proved that The Pharmaceutical Society could not act as a trade union and regulate hours, wages, prices or conditions of employment. George A. Mallinson was appointed as the RPU’s first Secretary (giving his name to the NPA’s current headquarters, Mallinson House, a listed building in St Albans, Hertfordshire).

1928: Penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic substance, was first discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming. His findings were to change medicine forever, however, it would be years before Fleming’s findings would be put into practical, widespread use.

1929: The Retail Pharmacists’ Union launched the inaugural Pharmacy Week, aiming to enhance understanding of the role of the pharmacist and their qualifications. It was reported that 4316 members took part in the scheme.

1932: Name change to National Pharmaceutical Union (NPU). Information Department formed.

1933: Legislation lists poisons that can only be sold in accordance with a prescription given by a doctor, dentist or veterinary surgeon.

1939: Outbreak of World War Il. Some NPU departments move to Buckinghamshire, others remain in London throughout the duration of war.

1945: End of World War Il. Business Purchase & Guarantee Fund formed to keep pharmacies in private hands.

1946: NPU Silver Jubilee. Business Transfer Registry formed. Chemists’ Federation formed from CFA. National Joint Industrial Council formed for control of wages for employees in retail pharmacy

1948: Formation of the National Health Service. People can get free prescriptions so there is much more dispensing in pharmacies; dispensing fees are now a major source of income.

1954: Legislation ensures services provided under contract to the NHS in community pharmacies and by community pharmacists are regulated in part by the NHS.

1955: The Pharmaceutical Society set up a committee to examine the general practice of pharmacy, with particular reference to professional standards.

1956: Marketing Policy Committee formed to develop maximum retail sales of traditional chemist goods to compete with multiples and supermarkets. Restricted Trades Practices Act: Chemists’ Federation taken to court.

1958: The Aitken Report sees pharmacists responsible for the safe and secure handling of medicines within a whole hospital, not just the pharmacy department.


1961: Joseph Wright appointed Secretary. NPU/UniChem sponsored modern pharmacy exhibition, London.

1963: Staff Training Course launched. Pharmacy Assistants Training Board formed by NPU, Co-op Chemists Association and Company Chemists’ Association.

1963: In the aftermath of the thalidomide disaster, the Yellow Card scheme is introduced to report adverse drug reactions.

1965: NPU Holdings Limited formed. NPU Marketing Limited formed to take over the work of Marketing Policy Committee. Scottish Pharmaceutical Federation and Ulster Chemists Association members admitted to NPU. Pharmacy Planning Department formed.

1966: After 40 years at Tavistock Square, the NPU moved to new headquarters at Southgate, London.

1968: New medicines have to be approved and licensed before being allowed on to the market.

1977: NPU name changed to National Pharmaceutical Association Limited by guarantee.

1978 NPA moved to new headquarters at Mallinson House in St Albans, Hertfordshire,

1980:  PSNC was formed as an independent body to support the interests of all NHS community pharmacies in England.

1982: The NPA’s first national corporate ‘Ask your Pharmacist’ advertising campaign launched

1984: Regulations restrict the opening of new pharmacies. They now have to prove that their NHS service is ‘necessary or desirable’.

1985: The number of medicines prescribable on the NHS is reduced, creating demand for over-the-counter drugs.

1986: Nuffield Report was published to consider the present and future structure of the practice of pharmacy in its several branches and its potential contribution to health care and to review the education and training of pharmacists accordingly’. Twenty-six of its 96 recommendations related to community pharmacy. It concluded that ‘the pharmacy profession has a distinctive and indispensable contribution to make to healthcare that is capable of still further development’.

1988: The title “Royal” is granted to The Pharmaceutical Society.

1991: Nicotine gum is the first form of nicotine replacement therapy made available from pharmacies.

1995: The NPA joins forces with other industry organisations to launch the profession’s first ever ‘Pharmacy Week’ national awareness campaign.

1999: The Yellow Card Scheme is extended to community pharmacists. The All-Party Pharmacy Group was formed to raise awareness of the profession of pharmacy, and to promote pharmacists’ current and potential contribution to the health of the nation.

2005: A new community pharmacy contract in England and Wales rewards provision of high-quality NHS services as well as dispensing volume. The electronic prescription service is launched in England.

2006: Pharmacists can prescribe independently of a doctor.

2009: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society introduces mandatory continuing professional development for pharmacists.

2010: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society sheds its regulatory role and the General Pharmaceutical Council is formed. It is the independent regulator of the pharmacy profession in England, Scotland and Wales.

2013: Primary care trusts in England are abolished and replaced by clinical commissioning groups as commissioners of NHS pharmacy services. Local authorities become commissioners of NHS public health services from community pharmacies.

2016: An overhaul of community pharmacy funding in England is announced by the government.

2020: The coronavirus pandemic sees pharmacies on the frontline of efforts to protect the population from illness. The health secretary Matt Hancock addresses NPA members during its annual conference.

2021: The NPA marks 100 years representing its members. Interest in community in government, the media and public is higher than it has ever been.