PDA members’ survey opposes removal of requirement for 2-year minimum experience before becoming an IP

A PDA member survey suggests the majority of those who understand the frontline of pharmacy want to keep the 2-year qualifying period before a pharmacist becomes an Independent Prescriber (IP).

Fri 17th December 2021 The PDA

The PDA has consistently advocated for the introduction of independent prescribing for pharmacists, however the organisation is continuing to raise the other side of the debate about how soon recently qualified pharmacists should be expected to develop their early practice experience before becoming Independent Prescribers.

Inevitably the PDA, as a defence association, sees what can happen when errors occur, and the consequences for patients and the professional. From that position, the PDA recognises the significant benefit of allowing newly qualified registrants the time to develop the fundamentals of their practice first, before adding the factor of independent prescribing. To test the current views of the profession on this important topic, the PDA undertook a short member survey which received over 1,000 responses in the first week of December.

The respondents were either students/trainees; pharmacists with less than 2 years practice, or those with two or more years of practice who stated if they were either already an IP, studying to be IP, or not studying to be an IP.

Students/Trainees

Among students/trainees, 22% said the qualifying period should continue as 2 years, while 74% said the requirement for experience before IP should be less than 2 years. The remaining 4% were unsure.

Among comments from student respondents were these examples:

“As someone who would be graduating a couple of years before the graduates after me, they will come out far more qualified with IP and this will mean I am miles behind if I still have to wait 2 years.”

“I think if someone who qualifies in 5 years time can be an IP, why can’t someone who has been qualified for a year?.”

Pharmacists with under 2 years’ experience of practice

In this group, 42% thought it should be at least 2 years (11% said the qualifying period should increase to more than 2 years, 31% said it should stay at 2 years), 54% thought it should be less than 2 years and 4% were unsure.

Pharmacists with more than 2 years’ experience of practice

Among comments from respondents were:

Less than 2 years will compromise patient safety and quality of prescribing.”

“I am concerned that young and inexperienced prescribers may be more susceptible to pressures from multiple pharmacies to prescribe. I am also concerned about the lack of support and mentorship they may face as I know how much the GPs I work with supported and guided me when I first qualified as a prescriber.”

“Need some life experience and good grounding within pharmacy before undertaking IP. It’s not just about prescribing. From me personally having several years of pharmacy experience, interacting with a variety of patients, and working within a multidisciplinary environment was a good foundation for undertaking the course and supported me in the first few months of practicing as an IP.”

I believe a significant period of practice as a qualified pharmacist is required before becoming an independent prescriber. There is a whole range of skills that you can’t learn until you are in the workplace.”

“I highly doubt newly qualified pharmacists have sufficient experience, skills and knowledge to make good and well-thought prescribing decisions. I fear that if this pre-requisite is removed, then the prescribing errors and ill-made decisions will go up jeopardising patient care and the professionalism/reputation of this profession.”

“It is a very specialised role. I think that younger untrained pharmacists could be exploited by GP surgeries and not be aware they are being asked to work beyond their competency.”

“I think pharmacists need to obtain a good amount of hands-on clinical experience of reviewing and evaluating prescriptions, treatment plans, and patient pathways etc (ideally while also undertaking a Clinical Pharmacy diploma or equivalent) before they themselves become prescribers. I would have strong safety concerns if inexperienced pharmacists were allowed to prescribe.”

Of those who have 2+ years’ experience of practice and who are already independent prescribers, 90% said the qualifying period should be 2 years more, with (36% saying it should remain at 2 years and 54% saying it should be increased to more than 2 years). An additional 3.2% were unsure, leaving just 6.8% in agreement with those who are suggesting the requirement should be removed. The PDA believes this is significant as those in this category have lived experience of the reality of being an IP.

The responses from those currently studying for IP, was that 92% thought the qualifying period should be at least two years (50% saying it should remain at 2 years and 42% saying it should be longer). 7% said it should be less than 2 years and 1% were unsure.

Finally, for those with 2+ years of practice but not studying for IP the results were: 87% in favour of the qualifying period being at least 2 years (41% saying it should stay at 2 years and 46% saying it should be longer). 8% thought it should be less than 2 years and 5 % were unsure.

Removal of current qualifying requirement

Respondents were also asked their view on the suggestion of removing the current 2-year requirement, on a scale from 0 = Strongly Support to 10 = Strongly Oppose.

  • Students/Trainees scored this as 2.2
  • Pharmacists with less than 2 years’ experience = 4.4
  • those with 2+ years of practice and IP = 8.6
  • those currently studying IP = 8.6, and
  • those with experience but not IP = 8.1

Once again, the survey shows that while most students and trainees are in favour of a qualifying period less than 2 years, those with experience of practice disagree with the proposals to remove the qualifying period. The PDA is keen to highlight that those already with IP, or currently studying for IP, oppose the suggestion of removing the 2-year qualifying period most strongly.

As always, the PDA would like to thank all members who participated in the survey.

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