Prescribing of ‘low-risk’ drugs to be expanded to wider range of healthcare professionals, government proposes

The government plans to introduce UK-wide legislation that will allow a wider range of professionals in the NHS to prescribe “low-risk” medicines, although there has been no indication as to who or what this would include.

Queens Speech

The government has said it will introduce legislation to allow a wider range of healthcare professionals in the NHS to prescribe “low-risk” medicines.

The proposed legislation was included in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, delivered on 14 October 2019, and government briefing notes on the speech which say a new Medicines and Medical Devices Bill would enable the “government to increase the range of professions able to prescribe low-risk medicines to make the most effective use of the NHS workforce”.

It will also enable the development of “more innovative ways of dispensing medicines, where recommended by scientific experts”, the government said.

The proposed new bill would “extend and apply to the whole of the UK,” according to the notes. However, leaders in the Welsh pharmacy sector have already called for every pharmacy in Wales to employ a pharmacy independent prescriber by 2030 as part of its long-term plan for the profession.

Commenting on the proposed legislation, Sandra Gidley, president at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, noted that there “is already quite a wide range of health professionals who can prescribe”.

“Rather than expanding lesser formularies to other people, it would seem to me to make much more sense to think about why some people aren’t becoming prescribers at the moment and what the barriers of that might be,” she said.

“I’m not quite sure what problem they’re trying to solve.”

The ‘Community pharmacy contractual framework for 2019/2020 to 2023/2024’, published in July 2019, committed to pursuing legislative changes that would “allow all pharmacies to benefit from more efficient hub-and-spoke dispensing” as well as implementing “greater use of original pack dispensing”.

The proposed new bill would also implement “a scheme to combat counterfeit medicines entering supply chains and a registration scheme for online sellers”, the government said.

Pharmacies in the UK currently have access to the falsified medicines directive database, which alerts pharmacists to counterfeit medicines in the supply chain. However, the UK will no longer have access to the database if the UK leaves the EU with no deal in place.

Also included in the proposed bill would be a new registration scheme for online pharmacies.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency currently requires online sellers of general sales list, prescription-only medicines or pharmacy medicines to register for a ‘Distance Selling Logo’ “to help members of the public to identify websites that can legally sell medicines”.

The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2019, Vol 303, No 7930;303(7930):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207198

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