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Physiotherapists and podiatrists join ranks of independent prescribers

By News team

Physiotherapists and podiatrists have been given the right to prescribe medicines independently to benefit patients and to free up “valuable GP time”.

The legislation, which comes into force today (20 August 2013), will mean the UK becomes the first country in the world to give these healthcare professionals independent prescribing rights. Up until now, they had only supplementary prescribing rights.

They will join a growing number of healthcare professionals with independent prescribing rights: nurses, pharmacists and optometrists. The first physiotherapist and podiatrist independent prescribers are expected to qualify in the summer of 2014 after training courses have been completed. The training programmes, which will be approved by the regulator — the Health and Care Professions Council, are expected to run for six months. The HCPC has also produced standards for prescribing, which must be met.

A spokeswoman for the HCPC told PJ Online that the “HCPC will now begin work to approve programmes delivering training in independent prescribing and will be contacting all education providers affected by the new standards. Following HCPC approval, it is anticipated that the first programmes will be available in early 2014.”

Controlled Drugs not allowed

Neither group will be allowed to prescribe Controlled Drugs or unlicensed medicines, but will be able to prescribe off label.

Physiotherapist independent prescribers will be able to prescribe any licensed medicine within national and local guidelines for any condition within their area of expertise and competence relating to human movement and function. A podiatrist independent prescriber is limited to disorders affecting the foot, ankle and associated structures.
Any prescribing decisions would also need to be communicated to the patient’s healthcare team.

A spokesman for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, a professional and trade union body, gave the example of salbutamol, which could be prescribed by respiratory physiotherapists. Others treatments could be prescribed for neurological diseases, rheumatological conditions and women’s health issues, as well as for chronic pain and mobility problems.

The Department of Health noted that physiotherapists would be able to prescribe analgesics and anti-inflammatories, while podiatrists could prescribe medicines for diabetic foot ulcers and arthritic foot conditions.

HCPC will maintain register

The DoH said not all physiotherapists and podiatrists will be eligible to prescribe. “It will be for those who meet the criteria and have successfully completed the approved education programmes.” The HCPC, which regulates 16 professions, will keep a register of physiotherapists and podiatrists with independent prescribing rights.

Commenting on the move, Joanna Brown, chief executive of The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, said  podiatrists will provide patients with prompt and better access to treatment.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society welcomed the move. Heidi Wright, practice and policy lead for England, said: “We support independent prescribing by physiotherapists and podiatrists. They, like other non-medical prescribers, will be prescribing within their competencies and providing better access to medicines for patients. As the number of prescribers increases, access to the patient’s electronic record for all those healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care would improve the quality of care.”

FP10s will show HCPC registration number

The same prescription processes will apply to these new prescribers as for other independent prescribers; that is, they will use FP10 forms or an in-patient drug chart, a DoH spokesman told PJ Online.  “FP10s must be issued specifically to the independent prescriber and show their name and HCPC registration number,” he added.

Earlier this month, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence produced guidance on patient group directions. It highlighted that some PGDs have been created when other options were more appropriate, such as non-medical prescribing, because of a lack of funding.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11124528

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Supplementary images

  • Physiotherapist with patient (Mauricio Jordan De Souza Coelho |

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