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Government considers giving pharmacists right to prescribe statins

By Nigel Praities

The Government will consider plans to hand pharmacists the automatic right to prescribe statins as part of its cardiovascular screening programme.

Under proposals submitted by the National Pharmacy Association, pharmacists would carry out vascular checks, assess risk and prescribe statins under a new Patient Group Direction.

The Department of Health said ministers would consider the proposals, but the suggestion pharmacists could give out statins without any prescribing training has prompted concerns over patient safety and continuity of care.

It comes as the head of the pharmacy trade body warned pharmacists were already being handed so much extra work they were struggling to practise safely.

The NPA document said: ‘Full use should be made of pharmacist's knowledge of medicines and their ability to become supplementary or independent non-medical prescribers, for instance to prescribe statins. As the number of pharmacists qualified as non-medical prescribers is still relatively low, pharmacist could supply statins to people who need them via a Patient Group Direction.'

Ministers are likely to give the proposals a sympathetic ear, after their recent Pharmacy white paper made clear pharmacists were ‘well placed to play a key role' in the screening programme.

Pulse revealed earlier this year that the Government was in discussions with several major high street pharmacy chains over provision of vascular checks, while Patient Group Directions are already used by pharmacists for certain medicines, such as emergency contraception.

But Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee, said the proposals were ‘foolish' as pharmacists were not equipped to monitor patients on statins long-term or give the appropriate lifestyle advice to patients at high risk.

‘You are not just giving them a statin, you are committing somebody to a lifetime of treatment,' he said.

Dr Jim Kennedy, RCGP prescribing spokesperson, questioned whether pharmacists would be able to prescribe statins if they could not access patient records: ‘The concern is information may not appear on patient records or there may be a significant delay, so access to records for pharmacists is crucial,' he said.

Mr John Murphy, director of the Pharmacists' Defence Association, said pharmacists were already becoming ‘deskilled' because of the excessive demands being placed on them in ‘cognitive services', such as blood pressure monitoring and medicines use reviews, and warned this would get worse.

‘Pharmacists are very diligent and want to put in any risk management that they can to prevent errors, but we just can't see this burdensome workload can continue without something really major happening,' he said.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘This consultation ended on 12 August and we are currently considering the views presented.'

Statins: pharmacists want rights to prescribe Statins: pharmacists want rights to prescribe

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