Community pharmacists must be able to routinely prescribe medicines for people with long-term conditions and refer them directly to other healthcare professionals to ease the overwhelming demand facing the NHS, says the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in a new report published today (November 30).
The RPS is calling for a change in policy regarding who can mentor a prescriber to enable more pharmacists to become prescribers. This means they could take on the management of patients whose condition is stable but require regular monitoring and changes to their medication to stay well, so keeping them out of hospital or GP surgeries.
A new Cochrane Review has shown that prescribers who aren’t doctors are as effective as regular medical prescribers. Just 6 per cent (3,319) of the total number of 54,500 registered pharmacists are currently prescribers.
To help speed up the care of those who need more complex care, pharmacists’ professional body is also calling for pharmacists to be able to refer directly to other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists or hospital consultants, rather than having to advise patients to go back to their GP for a further appointment and referral which inevitably means patients wait longer to be treated.
Sandra Gidley, chair of RPS England said: “Our proposals mean pharmacists, working with GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and patients, will be central to taking on the challenges and improving the care of people with long-term conditions. In light of the funding changes to community pharmacy, the RPS is redoubling its efforts to find new roles for pharmacists and ensure they are an integral part of the multidisciplinary team.
“The double whammy of an ageing population and the associated increase in the number of people living with one or more long-term conditions is pushing the NHS to crisis point. To cope with this demand we need a radical reform of how care is provided to this group of patients and the time has come for the Government to enable this to happen.
“We can’t continue with the current model which doesn’t serve patients well and puts GPs under intolerable pressure dealing with patients who could be treated by pharmacists with the right training. Medicines are central to the care of people with long-term conditions and there are some fantastic innovative services out there run by pharmacists which should be the norm so that all patients can benefit from them, not just the lucky few.
Chief executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, said: “The Patients Association warmly welcome pharmacists becoming trained prescribers, not just because it will take pressure off GP surgeries meaning a better service for patients who need to see their GP, but also because it is a better for patients who don’t need to see their GP. It is a win-win situation for patients.”
Meanwhile, the General Pharmaceutical Council is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the supervision of prescribing pharmacists in training. More details here.
We can’t continue with the current model