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Pharmacist independent prescribing given go-ahead

Pharmacists with extra training will be able to prescribe from early next year

Pharmacists with extra training will be able to prescribe from early next year

Pharmacists and extended formulary nurse prescribers are to be given the right to prescribe independently any licensed medicine for any condition, with the exception of Controlled Drugs, the Department of Health has announced.

Last week, Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, said that responses to the consultation on independent prescribing (PJ, 5 March, p257) were overwhelmingly in favour of allowing appropriately qualified pharmacists and nurses to prescribe any licensed medicine for any condition. “This is very good news for patients who will benefit from quicker and more accessible services. It also demonstrates our confidence in nurses and pharmacists, and our wish to use their skills and professionalism to the full,” she said.

Commenting on the announcement, Gul Root, principal pharmaceutical officer at the DoH, said: “Independent prescribing by pharmacists from the full British National Formulary fully recognises pharmacists’ expertise in medicines and their clinical skills. We need to ensure that we deliver to patients a safe service within robust clinical governance arrangements, by pharmacists who are competent and well trained.”

The news has been received with little enthusiasm by members of the medical profession, with Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, commenting that it is “an irresponsible and dangerous move”.

Hemant Patel, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said that despite the concerns raised by the BMA, there is much support for this move. He described it as “a significant milestone in the development of pharmacy services”.

Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, commented: “It is unfortunate that GP leaders are reacting so negatively. All professions should focus on working together to provide the best care for patients.” She added that independent prescribing will complement community pharmacy services being provided under the new contract, particularly support for long-term conditions.

The announcement builds on a number of prescribing initiatives in Scotland, according to Frank Owens, chairman of the Scottish Pharmaceutical General Council. “Pharmacists in all 176 pharmacies throughout Ayrshire & Arran and Tayside board areas already act as independent prescribers, providing treatment on the NHS for those patients suffering from common self-limiting illness. These latest proposals will give pharmacists providing this service access to a far greater range of medicines than at present.”

John D’Arcy, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said: “As the health professionals who have spent most time during their training studying medicines, pharmacists are well placed to take on independent prescribing responsibilities.” He added that the NPA believes that independent prescribers must undergo comprehensive training and should only prescribe within their sphere of competency.

The Society will be reviewing pharmacists’ training needs but has yet to release details of the training that will be required to qualify as an independent prescriber.

Independent prescribers in hospital pharmacy should allow for redesign of services to benefit patients, according to Tony West, president of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists.

Medicines and NHS regulations will be amended so that suitably trained pharmacists can begin prescribing independently from spring 2006. Detailed guidance on its implementation will be published by the DoH closer to this date.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10019857

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