New laws will see hundreds of experienced paramedics trained to write prescriptions, NHS England has announced.
NHS England has said that the changes, which came into effect on the 1 April, will speed up patient access to treatments and prevent unnecessary visits to GP practices.
Paramedics could previously administer medications on a limited basis, however following a trial run, new laws were introduced so that the most qualified are able to independently prescribe.
NHS England has estimated that 700 paramedics are set to undertake the training allowing them do this.
Many advanced paramedics are already incorporated into GP practices, but this additional qualification means that they could prescribe medications without the patient needing to see a GP.
NHS England has said that up to seven out of 10 patients seen by urgent care paramedics require help, but might not need to go to hospital.
It explained that elderly patients with urinary tract infections, asthma patients who need oral steroids and people presenting with back pain, are all examples where paramedics have the potential to assist.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Increasing the range of treatments offered by paramedics closer to people’s homes is another significant step in transforming emergency care as ambulance clinicians increasingly become part of community urgent treatment services’.
Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy added: ‘This will allow the NHS to make full use of its highly skilled workforce, ease pressure on other key services and improve care by ensuring patients have quicker access to vital medicines and can start treatment without delay’.
Paramedics have previously been called on to support increasing workload in primary care. In 2015, paramedics were reportedly attending home visits at weekends and evenings due to out of hours staff shortages in North Wales.
A year later, it was revealed that health boards in Scotland were also turning to the profession to cover patients outside of normal practice hours.