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PDA responds to requirements for pharmacist Independent Prescribing courses

The PDA welcomes the qualitative considerations when determining eligibility for an Independent Prescribing (IP) course but reiterates the need for the quantitative measure in the interests of patient safety.

Sat 21st May 2022 The PDA

The GPhC has announced that they are removing the two-year minimum post-qualification practice requirement before a pharmacist can commence an IP course. This will henceforth rely on course candidates being able to show they have ‘relevant experience in a pharmacy setting’ are ‘able to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber’ and ‘identify an area of clinical or therapeutic practice on which to base their learning’.

The PDA accepts that the qualitative approach could mean greater individual consideration of potential IP course candidates and the two-year measure could have sometimes been a blunt tool. However, the PDA is already seeing cases of patient harm and allegations around fitness to practice arising from IP. The PDA believes that maintaining the two-year post qualification eligibility criteria, in addition to the qualitative measures being introduced would have been in the best interest of patient safety.

The PDA occupies a unique position in pharmacy in that it has the helicopter view of seeing the examples and trends relating to what causes errors and harm. The PDA also supports individual pharmacists with near misses, as well as actual incidents, giving the organisation possibly the most comprehensive understanding of risk.

Frontline pharmacists also recognise these issues and in a survey of over 1,000 pharmacists undertaken by the PDA in late 2021, of those who had 2+ years’ experience of practice and who were already independent prescribers, 90% said the qualifying period should be 2 years or more. An additional 3.2% were unsure, leaving just 6.8% in agreement with those who suggested the requirement should be removed, as the GPhC has now done. The PDA believes this is extremely significant as those in this category have lived experience of the reality of being an independent prescriber.

Although the regulator has chosen to remove the two-year qualifying period this does not necessarily mean that those who lack post-qualification experience need to be the next to undertake IP courses. With aspirations that many, perhaps most, of the existing profession will eventually also become IPs, HEE and other bodies could make efforts to encourage those who already have the experience of practice to undertake the courses. There are also ways in which risk could be mitigated for those new to being an IP, through a gradual or limited introduction to prescribing which would build confidence and competence in a planned and managed pathway.

The PDA will continue to promote the critical balance between opportunities for the development of professional practice for pharmacists with the interests of patient safety and risk management.

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