Pharmacist and nurse prescribers will be able to prescribe controlled drugs from next month, the Home Office has revealed.
The move comes after a consultation in 2007 found support for allowing nurse and pharmacist independent prescribers to prescribe all medicines.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society says the change will enable pharmacists to be more involved in areas such as palliative care, but the GPC has reacted sceptically to the move.
This week Home Office minister James Brokenshire announced in Parliament that the department was working with the Department of Health to implement the change next month.
He said: ‘The Home Office is currently working on a statutory instrument to implement the changes on independent prescribing. The statutory instrument will be laid in Parliament this month, subject to my consideration. The expectation is that the changes will take effect in April 2012.'
The RPS welcomed the move as they said it had been ‘causing issues in practice' because pharmacists could not be responsive to patient needs, including access to medicines for palliative care.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society chief executive Helen Gordon said: ‘The inability of independent pharmacist prescribers to prescribe controlled drugs has been an anomaly for too long.'
‘We are very pleased that the Home Office have listened to our position and have now taken quick and positive action. This change will mean patients are able to access these important medicines in a timely way and allow development of new innovative pathways to meet patients' needs.'
But Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC's clinical and prescribing subcommittee and a GP in Middlesbrough, said: ‘I am trying hard to understand the scenarios where a pharmacist as an independent prescriber will be in a position to prescribe controlled drugs, even in the palliative care situation.'
‘Palliative care is by definition a situation where a multidisciplinary team have recognised a situation where someone is approaching the end of life and in most situations will be on a pathway which includes appropriate prescribing within the team.'