Pharmacists wishing to train as independent prescribers will no longer have to wait for two years after registration, under new rules set by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
Currently, pharmacists who want to start an independent prescribing (IP) course need to have been on the GPhC register for at least two years and must have previous experience in a specified clinical or therapeutic area.
But following a consultation on removing the two-year requirement, which ran between September 2021 and November 2021, the regulator has agreed that registered pharmacists can start IP training at any time — as long as they have relevant experience in a pharmacy setting and are able to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber.
A pharmacist’s experience and readiness will be assessed by the IP course provider.
Responses to the consultation showed extensive support for scrapping the two-year requirement, with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society saying that access to IP training courses “should be based on whether pharmacists can evidence the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the training rather than the period someone had been on the register”.
In a statement published on 12 May 2022, the GPhC said that the change would help meet the demand for more pharmacist independent prescribers from health services and patients. But it warned that there are “challenges around the limited number of designated prescribing practitioners available to supervise pharmacists undertaking the independent prescriber course”.
The regulator is working with stakeholders, including the statutory education bodies across Great Britain, to “make sure there is adequate supervision capacity”, it added.
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said the regulator was “clear that appropriate experience is necessary before people can embark on a course leading to becoming an independent prescriber”.
“We know some individuals and organisations responding to the consultation were concerned that removing the two-year requirement might mean that people started independent prescriber courses before they had the necessary experience, and this could affect patient safety,” he said.
“We believe the most effective assurance for patient safety comes from a requirement for pharmacists to have gained relevant experience in a pharmacy setting and their ability to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber, before they can get a place on an independent prescriber course.”
The GPhC will be contacting IP course providers to notify them of when the changes come into effect.