Headlines: March 19th, 2004

Extending the role of pharmacists to prescribing medicines marks another milestone in the removal of professional barriers in the health service. The first group of pharmacists have completed 25 days training and 12 days supervised practice and are now qualified to work in partnership with doctors, dentists and patients to implement Clinical Management Plans. The extended role is likely to be most useful in dealing with long-term medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or coronary heart disease, or with long-term health needs, such as anti-coagulation.Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: “I am delighted that the first supplementary prescribing pharmacists have now qualified and that they will soon be bringing their expertise to the aid of both patients and doctors alike. Extending prescribing responsibilities to pharmacists will make getting the right medicine easier and more convenient than ever before and will help to reduce the burden on GPs by giving them more time to deal with acutely ill patients.”

Pharmacists are able to be trained as supplementary prescribers in 14 Higher Education Institutions around the country.

Changing working practices in the health service is part of the modernization plan and supplementary prescribing was extended to nurses last year. The future roles of doctors and nurses is under discussion and the British Medical Association has accepted the principle of giving increased responsibility to nurses to preserve a doctor’s time for those tasks where increased clinical skills are required.