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GPhC: 55% of pharmacy respondents support scrapping of IP experience rule

A slight majority are in favour of proposals to scrap the two years of experience pharmacists must have under their belts to begin training as independent prescribers, a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) consultation has found.

Just over half (55%) of 1,211 respondents to the consultation, which ran between September 28 and November 23, 2021, were in favour of getting rid of this rule, while 43% disagreed, the GPhC wrote in papers released ahead of its council meeting on Thursday (March 10).



Read more: GPhC chair on proposals to scrap 2-years' experience rule for prescribing



Pharmacists must currently have “at least” two years' worth of experience after they join the register before they can enrol on an independent prescribing course.

But last July, the GPhC proposed removing this requirement in response to the UK chief pharmaceutical officers’ desires to increase the number of pharmacist prescribers and cut the time it takes for a pharmacist to be annotated as such.


The regulator will “work through the risks identified” through the consultation before “recommending an approach”, it said.



Is two years’ experience enough?



The 1,164 individual respondents to the consultation were less likely to support the proposal compared to the 47 responses from organisations, according to the regulator.


A large majority (81%) of those speaking on behalf of organisations agreed with the proposal, while just 54% of individual respondents supported removing the two-year requirement.



Read more: Is getting an independent prescribing qualification worth it?



Many respondents felt that pharmacists need adequate experience before moving onto independent prescribing and “are not ready to enrol on prescribing courses as soon as they qualify”, the regulator found.


A number of individual respondents were concerned that allowing pharmacists with less than two years of post-registration experience to prescribe “would put patients at risk of harm”, the GPhC noted.


Respondents also voiced that “experience in practice helps pharmacists gain confidence and allows them to settle into their role before taking on the added responsibility of prescribing”, the GPhC said.


Meanwhile, some even suggested that pharmacists should have more than two years of experience before they are able to prescribe.



Keeping rule in place “unfair”



A high proportion of respondents from organisations felt that retaining the current two-year requirement “would be unfair” on pharmacists currently on or due to join the register before 2026, because those qualifying after this time will automatically become independent prescribers when they join the register.



Read more: More than 300 funded independent prescribing places announced in England



Reducing the two-year requirement would therefore “only be fair” to current pharmacists, these respondents thought.


Last year, the regulator’s then chair, Nigel Clarke, told C+D there was not a convincing argument for maintaining the “arbitrary” rule.





Impact of proposals on women



Some respondents thought the GPhC’s proposals would have a positive impact on women and primary care givers because they would allow “more flexibility for those planning their career around having children”.


Female pharmacists sometimes delay their pregnancies to obtain independent prescribing training, the GPhC argued.


Respondents also noted that “taking time off to have children would have less of an impact on someone becoming a prescriber” under the proposed changes.


However, some thought the changes might limit the employability of women “who have not qualified as a prescriber before starting a family”.



Other proposals



The GPhC also consulted on a proposal to scrap the need for pharmacists to gain experience “in a specific clinical or therapeutic area” before they can start independent prescribing training.


This proposal “received strong support from respondents”, the GPhC wrote, with 72% agreeing that this requirement should be replaced with a requirement to have experience in appropriate clinical settings.


Generalist knowledge and skills are already required for prescribing and changing the experience requirement would improve accessibility to prescribing training, thereby “broaden[ing] applicants’ opportunities once qualified”, it suggested.



Catch up on The Big Debate: Is getting an independent prescribing qualification worth it? on the C+D Community and add your own views


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