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Physios and chiropodists may get prescribing rights

By Lilian Anekwe

Ministers are considering handing prescribing rights to physiotherapists, chiropodists and even music therapists, Pulse can reveal.

The controversial move follows last month's announcement that patients will be able to bypass their GP and self-refer for services such as physiotherapy.

Health Minister Lord Darzi has admitted to MPs that the Government will look to widen access to prescribing, by handing members of the allied health professions independent prescriber status.

In an answer to a parliamentary question on the issue he said: ‘The department has recently begun a scoping project to look at mechanisms for supply and prescribing of medicines by allied health professionals.

‘Any profession that aspires to prescribe needs to have a robust business case, demonstrating strong benefits to patients, without compromising patient safety.'

But Pulse has learned that the Government's consultation will consider extension of prescribing rights to trained members across the allied health professions - including art, drama and music therapists – in addition to chiropodists and podiatrists.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘The scoping project has been initiated to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support NHS and patient need for further development of supply and prescribing of medicines by allied health professionals. The scoping project will be completed in March 2009 and will inform any future work.

‘Extending prescribing responsibilities would only take place after public consultation and advice from former Commission on Human Medicines - an independent body of experts.'

The move comes at the same time as Home Office Ministers are set to allow nurse and pharmacist independent prescribers to prescribe any controlled drug.

Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State for public health, has confirmed the Home Office's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs have approved the necessary legislative changes to allow independent prescribers to prescribe all controlled drugs.

Dr Mark Wallace, a GP in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, responded cautiously to the proposals.

He said: 'In principal I don't have a major problems with it - physios are able to do it easily if they trained up.

‘My issue would be with safety. The main issue I foresee is that it would be dangerous if allied health professionals don't have access to a patient's medical records. If we had to fax them patient details every time someone attended that would be a nightmare.'

Allied health professionals such as physios and podiatrists may get prescribing rights under Government plans

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