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World Medical Association raises concerns about non-medical prescribers

Concerns about the transfer of tasks, such as prescribing, from doctors to other healthcare workers have been expressed by the World Medical Association.

At the WMA’s annual general assembly in New Delhi, India, last week (19 October 2009), the organisation warned governments that patient safety and quality of care should be given the highest priority when considering task shifting in the delivery of health services.

In a new policy document approved at the assembly, the WMA expresses a series of concerns about the global development of task shifting. Its chairman, Edward Hill, said: “We recognise the relevance of task shifting in countries where the alternative is no care at all. But the solution for one country cannot automatically be adopted by other countries.

“And wherever this occurs it is important that tasks that should be performed only by physicians are well defined, including the role of diagnosis and prescribing. There must be a clear understanding of what each person is trained for and capable of doing, clear understanding of responsibilities and a defined, uniformly accepted use of terminology.”

The association warned that the transfer of tasks should not be undertaken or viewed solely as a cost saving measure and should not replace the development of sustainable, fully functioning healthcare systems. It should be seen as only one response to the shortage of health workers and where it is implemented it should be seen only as an interim measure, it said.

The Pharmaceutical Journal understands that there was no specific mention of pharmacist prescribing at the general assembly but that a WMA working party on drug prescribing is currently discussing the subject and will report back next year.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10983052

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