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Independent prescribing gets legal green light

20 August 2013 - 8:50am

The government has finally given the legal rubber stamp for independent prescribing, bringing essential legislation covering England into effect.


Professional adviser Pip White who helped steer the CSP's bid

This means that appropriately trained physiotherapists are one step closer to prescribing medicines for their patients without a doctor’s counter-signature.

Similar secondary legislation is due to follow soon in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The historic move, announced by health minister Norman Lamb today (Tues 20 Aug), is a huge milestone in the long battle for recognition of physiotherapists’ skills.

It means colleges will now be able to finalise their syllabuses for the courses that physiotherapists will have to undergo to gain approval to treat patients in this way.

Huge step

Karen Middleton, chief allied health professions officer for NHS England, said: ‘This is a huge step for the physiotherapy profession in terms of being able to provide services which offer patients better access, a better experience and improved outcomes. It may also reduce the cost.

‘Physiotherapists need to influence local commissioners in terms of how these new prescribing rights can result in significant service redesign, in particular in order to reduce the demand on GP time. I would like to thank all the physiotherapists and officers at the CSP who have worked in collaboration in order to deliver this significant milestone.’

Meanwhile CSP chief executive Phil Gray was delighted: ‘It won’t result in an explosion of physiotherapists prescribing immediately, but over the next couple of years it will be part of a radical change in the profession.

‘UK physiotherapists will be the first in the world to achieve full independent prescribing rights. These will enable them to give their patients rapid access to the necessary drugs they need to help with their conditions, without seeking a doctor’s agreement.

‘It is another hallmark of a highly skilled, confident, autonomous and accountable independent profession delivering high standards of patient care. We should celebrate this milestone internationally,’ Mr Gray said.

Training courses

The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is also publishing standards to coincide with the new legislation that set out the regulatory framework for independent prescribing, which underpin the content of the training courses.

Charlotte Urwin, HCPC policy manager, said: ‘Regulation has a really important role in ensuring that physiotherapists are able to independently prescribe safely and effectively.’

After appropriate training, qualified independent prescribers will need to be annotated on the professional register, as is currently the case for supplementary prescribers.

Unlike the existing 270 supplementary prescribers already on the HCPC register, independent prescribers will be able to prescribe any medicine within the legal framework and their scope of practice.

‘I would expect a considerable number of supplementary prescribers will go on to complete additional training to become the first wave of independent prescribers, but other physiotherapists have also expressed an interest in completing the training,’ said Ms Urwin.

‘They will need to really understand medicines, particularly pharmacology and the effect of a prescribing decision on a patient’s other medication,’ she added.

The first courses are likely to come onstream by early 2014 and will appear on the HCPC website.

The landmark ruling is set out in an amendment to the Human Medicines Regulations 2013 and concludes a decade-long CSP-led campaign to permit physiotherapists greater autonomy in prescribing medicines.

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