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Pharmacists just as 'effective' as GPs at prescribing, says new Cochrane review

Pharmacists and nurses with varying levels of training are able to deliver 'comparable prescribing outcomes to GPs', according to the authors of a new gold-standard review.

The ‘Prescribing roles for health professionals other than doctors’ Cochrane review found that the outcomes for non-medical prescribers were comparable to medical prescribers for a wide range of conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes control and high cholesterol.

The move comes as a new report from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Pharmacists argues that pharmacists must be able to routinely prescribe medicines for people with long-term conditions and refer them directly to other healthcare professionals in a bid to reduce the ‘intolerable pressure on GPs’.

The review concluded: ‘With appropriate training and support, nurses and pharmacists are able to prescribe medicines as part of managing a range of conditions to achieve comparable health management outcomes to doctors,’ was one of the key messages of the review.

‘The findings suggest that non-medical prescribers, practising with varying but high levels of prescribing autonomy, in a range of settings, were as effective as usual care medical prescribers.’

The RPS, citing the review, has demanded a change in policy regarding who can mentor a prescriber to enable more pharmacists to become prescribers (just 6% – 3,319 – of the total number of 54,500 registered pharmacists are currently prescribers).

A spokesperson for the RPS pointed out that there a number of case studies where pharmacists have been involved directly in the prescribing of patients with long-term conditions.

RPS England chair Sandra Gidley said: ’We can’t continue with the current model which doesn’t serve patients well and puts GPs under intolerable pressure dealing with patients who could be treated by pharmacists with the right training.’

The Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: ‘Being able to speak to a local pharmacist could mean that patients are able to access the right care closer to home or their workplace; completely removing the challenges of booking an appointment with a GP, cutting out waiting times and taking out the worry for many patients who get anxious visiting a surgery.’

The RPS is launching the report at the House of Commons on 30 November.

Readers' comments (12)

  • I'm sure given 15 mins or so they can safely prescribe.
    Can they safely diagnose however?

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  • My job is running a shop selling drugs and stuff to people and now you say I can prescribe the drugs I'm making a profit selling??

    Wonderful news! Absolutely marvellous!

    Catt'-ching! £££$$$!! :-) :-) :-)

    Great news for people who make money selling drugs.

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  • Anonymous | Sessional/Locum GP/29 Nov 2016 4:51pm

    Dispensing Doctors discuss.........

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  • Please note - pharmacists practise in a range of locations, not just in community pharmacies, it could be within the GP practice. Any prescribing for patients with LTCs would need to be through an agreed arrangement with the patient's GP, wherever the pharmacist is located.

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  • Having worked alongside clinical pharmacists in specialist settings i can only celebrate the expertise they bring to patient care. My only concerns are that with this move, many pharmacists may feel exposed by being pushed into diagnosing undifferentiated presentations. The people in power care little for patients and even less for the healthcare professions working hard to serve them. Pharmacist/dr/nurse bashing makes us all weaker in the face of these mendacious bastards.

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  • Anonymous | Pharmacist29 Nov 2016 5:17pm
    I run a pharmacy, the primary reason my pharmacy exists is to make money selling medication ...discuss

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  • I'm happy to share the workload with pharmacists, nurses, social workers, emergency care practitioners, super administrators. Wary that the risk and litigation will still be bounced back to GPs.
    Fix the litigation and I'll cheer up about the future of primary care. At the moment being a GP is putting yourself in harm's way.

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  • I know fantastic pharmacists, but I've also stood in a pharmacy queue on a number of occasions and heard absolute nonsense being peddled to people. They will have to be prepared to tell people with self-limiting illnesses to go home empty handed.

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  • Pharmacists are an under used resource, I agree with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Non medical prescriber pharmacists working within GP surgeries, dealing with chronic long term conditions provide supportive, safe,and cost effective patient care. They are best placed to discuss issues with medication, compliance and give patients time which the over stretched doctors struggle with.Without access to patients full clinical record, community pharmacy struggles in supporting patients let alone prescribe medication. I wholly support greater use of pharmacists and hopefully one in every surgery.

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  • We have just had a case this week where a pharmacist issued thyroxine for a patient with a serious heart condition requiring an emergency admission to hospital. Given that all prescribed medication is checked by a second pharmacist, i won't be asking them for any advice.

    Pharmacists may have access to the medication a patient is taking but may not know the reason why, they manage drugs, not medical conditions and should stick to filling pill bottles and leave clinical medicine to GP's.

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