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Independent prescribing by paramedics under consideration

The Commission on Human Medicines is reviewing new evidence about whether paramedics in the UK should be given independent prescriber status.

Paramedics may become the latest health profession to be given the power to prescribe, it has emerged.

The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), is currently reviewing new evidence presented to it earlier this year about whether UK paramedics should be given independent prescriber status. Currently paramedics are only able to supply medicines working to patient group directions.

If the CHM gives the go-ahead, it would still need ministerial blessing alongside changes to the Medicines Act before it could be introduced.

The College of Paramedics estimates it would be 2019 at the earliest before the first paramedic prescribers were qualified.

College response

“I think GPs who work with paramedics [in practices] have realised their value but there are still a group in the GP world who don’t see the benefit that comes from working with paramedics,” said college chief executive and paramedic Gerry Egan. 

”There is still a whole group of people who think that we still [only] drive an ambulance and take people to hospital.”

He said around 30% of its 10,000 members now work in non-traditional settings such as GP practices and hospital emergency departments.

“I don’t really see any real challenges to giving us prescribing powers, apart from the challenge of it being a fairly large change.

“The majority of healthcare professionals today are used to multi-professional and multi-disciplinary work and will welcome another group of people that can share the load,” he added.

NHS England consultation

NHS England has been considering allowing advanced paramedic practitioners to become independent prescribers for the past two years as part of a wider move to extend the role to allied health professions.

The results of its public consultation published in a report in February 2016, found that 90.7% of respondents were in favour of changing the law to allow paramedics to become independent prescribers. The majority backed the option for them to work from a full formulary.

On 28 November 2017, NHS England confirmed that the CHM was looking at the latest “case of need” evidence to support independent prescriber paramedics following fresh material presented to it in September.

But the spokesperson said no final decision had been made and could give no indication of when that decision would be known.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20204034

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