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RPS: Pharmacists have full understanding of antibiotics risks

Pharmacy News

RPS: Pharmacists have full understanding of antibiotics risks

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Claire Anderson has commented on reports that health secretary Therese Coffey pharmacists is planning a “Scotland-style” scheme for England whereby more pharmacists will be able to prescribe antibiotics.

In a letter to the Times today – the paper that broke the story of Ms Coffey’s plans – Ms Anderson noted that pharmacists “prescribe in many different areas and have an impact across many conditions”.

“Pharmacists have provided antibiotics to patients safely for many years and often lead on reducing antimicrobial resistance in community and hospital sectors so the idea floated by the Government is not new,” she said.

“Pharmacists are experts in medicines and every day use their clinical skills to assess and treat patients with antibiotics, either as prescribers themselves or under agreed protocols with the local NHS teams.

“This means patients who need treatment get it via accessible and convenient NHS services from professionals who have full understanding of the principles of optimising therapy and minimising antibiotic resistance.

“Pharmacists also spend considerable time educating patients about the misuse or overuse of antibiotics.”

The Times article generated a huge response over the weekend, with many outside the pharmacy sector raising concerns about Ms Coffey’s plans and some speculating that pharmacists may be “incentivised” to dispense antibiotics unnecessarily through any new Government scheme.

A number of pharmacists have voiced their disappointment with what some described as a “narrow minded” view of their professional practice. RPS England board chair Thorrun Govind said that “easy access doesn’t mean they will be available for patients to pick and choose” and emphasised that pharmacists are “highly skilled and regulated”.

Ms Govind also commented on the health secretary’s admission that she had shared unused antibiotics with family and friends, saying this “undermined the great work of healthcare colleagues” trying to tackle antibiotic resistance.

Ms Anderson added: “Patients should always complete their course of antibiotics and never share them with others as this is unsafe and can increase antibiotic resistance.

“Our members are currently promoting an ‘antibiotic amnesty’ campaign to remove unwanted antibiotics from circulation, so if the secretary of state does indeed possess any leftover medicines she is welcome to drop them off at her local pharmacy, where they will be disposed of safely."

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