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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.