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IP pharmacists may not ‘choose to prescribe that often’, says CPhO

NHS chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England David Webb has said that independent prescriber pharmacists will bring a “judicious approach" to prescribing. 

Pharmacists “might be a sort of prescribing profession that doesn't choose to prescribe that often”, NHS England (NHSE) CPhO David Webb told delegates at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) annual conference last week (November 10).

Speaking in a panel discussion with two other UK CPhOs about independent prescribing, Mr Webb posed the question of what pharmacist independent prescribers (IPs) will “bring to the table”.

Read more: GPhC may look at overprescribing risk from IP contractors ‘in future’

He said that “for the medical disciplines, the excitement is the diagnostic chase” and that “from a nursing perspective, it's very much…a therapeutic intervention within a wider context of care”.

But he added that what the pharmacy sector “collectively will bring is a sort of a judicious approach to the use of medicines”.

Read more: Pharmacy First: Sector must prove it can ‘manage’ antimicrobial stewardship

He stressed that pharmacist IPs will be “really thinking about the consequence” of introducing each therapy and what the “long-term goal will be for the patient”, because “more medicine is not necessarily the answer”.

And he added that “an excellent mark for [pharmacist IPs’] professional practice” will be asking questions such as “what is the thing we're hoping to achieve for people through this intervention? Over what timescale? How will we know if we've got there? And will we have the courage to subtract it when it's not doing what's required?”


“The biggest change ever in our profession”


It comes as independent prescribing is set to form part of the curriculum for trainee pharmacists from 2025/26, with funded places for IP training also offered to qualified pharmacists.

Responding to a question about what the priorities for supporting new cohorts of prescribing pharmacists are, CPhO for Northern Ireland Professor Cathy Harrison said that CPhOs are “living and breathing this right now”.

Read more: Pharmacies hosting foundation trainees to be paid £26.5k a year from 2025

She said it was a “journey” that is still “at the start” and that “there is no single solution because this is this is probably the biggest change ever in our profession”, but that CPhOs across the UK are working on “prescribing rules” for each sector of practice.

Alison Strath, CPhO for Scotland, stressed that there is “a lot of excitement around [independent prescribing] opportunities”.

Read more: Where are all the designated prescribing practitioners?

Regarding support, she said that Scottish foundation year doctors all have a “therapeutic handbook” and suggested that this should be made “available for our pharmacist prescribers as well”.

But she added that “each and every one of us has a role in educating and supporting our new prescribers”.


Overprescribing risk?


Meanwhile, Day Lewis executive director Sam Patel last month warned that a rising number of IP pharmacy owners presented “a potential for risk of overprescribing” at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham.

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) deputy regional director David Clark responded by telling delegates that the regulator may look at overprescribing by IP pharmacy contractors “in the future”.

Read more: Claims Pharmacy First could fuel antibiotic resistance ‘disingenuous’

Also last month, NHSE pharmacy leaders stressed that the commissioner needs to “be able to demonstrate” that community pharmacy can manage antimicrobial stewardship for the upcoming Pharmacy First service.

And earlier this year, the Pharmacy First service came under attack from a group of scientists who claimed that enabling community pharmacists to treat seven minor illnesses could lead to antibiotic resistance.

Pharmacists hit back at the claims, branding them “disingenuous”.

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