GPhC scraps 2-year experience rule for independent prescribing training
Pharmacists will no longer need to have two years of experience to enrol in an independent prescribing course, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has decided.
Pharmacists hoping to start an accredited IP course will now need “relevant experience in a pharmacy setting” instead of the two years of experience that were previously required, after council members voted to scrap the rule in a meeting this morning (May 12).
Once this change is introduced, applicants will also need to “be able to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber to act as the foundation of their prescribing practice while training”, the regulator wrote in papers released ahead of the meeting.
The council voted to scrap the two-year experience requirement despite only a slight majority (55%) of respondents to its consultation on the matter – which ran between September 28 and November 23 last year – expressing support for the change.
Two-year requirement “difficult to defend”
The GPhC determined that its consultation had “highlighted that a specific two-year period was not in itself a robust indication of whether an individual was ready to become a prescriber”.
“The rapidly developing roles in the profession meant more pharmacists were likely to gain the necessary experience more quickly than in the past,” the regulator added.
Some pharmacists might be ready to start prescribing training prior to completing two years of practice, “particularly if they have worked in certain settings or had a high degree of exposure to patients”, the regulator argued.
Meanwhile, others may “take two years or longer, depending on their individual readiness”, it said.
“We would expect more and more pharmacists to be developing their readiness and competence to prescribe more quickly”, the GPhC said, as rapid change in the sector has lead to “increasing clinical roles and exposure”.
“Preventing people from applying for a course simply because they have not done their time-served – even if they have developed the necessary experience – is more difficult to defend,” it stated.
The GPhC first proposed to remove the two-year experience requirement last July, 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 become one.
GPhC “to further define requirements”
Following the council’s vote, applicants to prescribing courses will still be required to “identify an area of clinical or therapeutic practice on which to base their learning”, the GPhC wrote.
Pharmacists will be able initially develop their skills in particular areas such as “common clinical conditions” and later widen their prescribing practice “once confident in that area”, it said.
This – combined with the need for relevant experience – will be “the most effective assurance for patient safety”, the GPhC stated.
The council will also need to approve future guidance “to further define the requirements in advance of the changes being introduced”.
The regulator will inform prescribing course providers of the changes so they know when the changes will come into effect, it said.
While independent prescribing training will form part of the curriculum for trainee pharmacists from 2025-2026, the GPhC noted that “free-standing courses will continue to be available to pharmacists wishing to train as [such]”.
It expected the changes to primarily affect recently registered pharmacists and those that will join the register before 2025-2026.
The regulator noted that there was a risk that the changes might “reduce” patient safety, although it determined that gaining relevant experience accompanied by guidance would provide a “robust basis for patient safety”, combined with students meeting course learning outcomes.
The regulator acknowledged once again that there are “resource challenges” affecting the number of designated prescribing practitioners, which could worsen as more “free-standing courses expand” and as independent prescribing training becomes embedded within pharmacy degrees.