Paramedics could be given new powers to prescribe medicines as part of a bid to reduce GP and hospital visits.
The Department of Health has asked NHS England to carry out work to see if there is a ‘case of need’ for paramedics being able to prescribe drugs as they take a larger role in primary care.
Presentations on the consultation were made to the Commission on Human Medicines in September at a formal committee meeting. The CHM is now weighing up the evidence and will make its own recommendations to ministers in due course.
This is part of phased work looking at various allied health professions, such as radiographers and paramedics, if they can be trained to prescribe drugs to widen their scope of work.
GP leaders cautiously welcomed the plans, with GPC prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green commenting: ‘At the moment paramedics can only administer drugs through PGDs, which only work in limited clinical situations. As their role expands, particularly in primary care, this is unlikely to remain practical.
‘In general, we have tended to support extending prescribing rights to allied professions, and experience has shown that those rights are exercised responsibly.’
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: ‘Paramedics, clinical pharmacists and mental health therapists can help GPs offer longer appointments for their patients who most need them.
‘This is another practical example of how the NHS is going full speed ahead with new and better ways of looking after people. As a result of these and other reforms to redesign care across England, NHS productivity has been rising far faster than for the economy overall, which is good news for both patients and taxpayers.’
Paramedics are taking an increasing role in primary care, with nearly all home visits in Manchester now carried out by paramedics as part of a scheme to free up GPs to spend more time with patients with complex needs.
A group of local GP federations received £42m in funding from the GP Forward View, allowing general practice in the city to ‘breathe’ by paying for extended appointments and a wider clinical workforce in practices.
Plans in the GP Forward View detailed how the use of primary care staff would be widened in a bid to reduce hospital visits, after a report by the Primary Care Foundation and NHS Alliance estimated that around 27% of appointments could potentially be avoided if there was more coordinated working between GPs and hospitals, wider use of primary care staff and better use of technology.
Paramedics were named in the GP Forward View as one of the groups of healthcare professionals who could contribute to providing care, alongside advanced nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacists, physician associates and physiotherapists.
NHS England has been approached for comment.
Please note: a previous version of this story attributed a quote to an NHS England spokesperson. We are happy to clarify that this was not an official statement