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Northern Ireland physios gain independent prescribing rights

31 October 2014 - 10:53am

Physiotherapists in Northern Ireland (NI) have gained the right to become independent prescribers, following a change to the law.

Teresa Ross

Chair of CSP's NI board Teresa Ross: 'Independent prescribing is what physiotherapists have been waiting for.'

An amendment was made to the NI pharmaceutical services regulations in June 2014, and it has now come into force.

The legislation means that physios in NI who have trained as independent prescribers will be able to prescribe medicines for their patients without a doctor’s countersignature.

As a result CSP members in all four countries of the UK now have equal independent prescribing rights, as similar changes to the law occurred in England, Wales and Scotland over the past year.

'Independent prescribing legislation is what physiotherapists in Northern Ireland have been waiting for,' said Teresa Ross, chair of the CSP’s Northern Ireland Board.

Mrs Ross said it provided an opportunity for those physiotherapy supplementary prescribers to practise independently to improve the patient journey and their care outcomes, through a one-stop-shop approach.

'Supplementary prescribing had limited impact on patient care, due to the various work "arounds" that needed to be put in place with GPs and consultants,' she said. 'Now, with independent prescribing, physiotherapists will be able to work autonomously with their patient groups and other prescribers.'

Their patients would be able to have their assessment, treatment and medication prescribed and managed at the one appointment, she said.

'These patients will not have to go back to their GP, they will be able to take their prescription straight to their pharmacist.'

But she added that communication was key to the success of the initiative.

The patient record would need to be updated immediately to inform all potential prescribers of any changes to their prescribing plan to ensure safe medicines management for patients.

The NI electronic care record would be key to this process, as well as having access to GP’s IT systems.

Mrs Ross believes that, now the new legislation has been passed, it will encourage more physiotherapists to train to become independent prescribers.

CSP professional adviser Pip White told Frontline: 'The process has taken just over a year from implementation in England, to becoming UK wide. And considering everything else that has been going on, to get four separate legislatures to agree and implement change so quickly is amazing.'

Eight physios have completed training

So far, eight physiotherapists in Northern Ireland have completed their training as independent prescribers. These are from the University of Ulster, which is accredited to offer both full and conversion programmes to physiotherapists.

Among them is Vicki Quinn, from Western health and social care trust.

'It’s probably the most challenging course that I’ve done, but I would definitely recommend it,' said Ms Quinn.

In the past, physiotherapists could do little to improve patients’ pain management medication, she said.




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