GPhC Council agrees changes to the requirements for entry to independent prescribing courses

The changes will allow pharmacists to begin an independent prescriber course when they have the relevant experience and awareness. 

The GPhC Council has agreed to changes to the requirements for entry to accredited independent prescribing courses after carefully considering feedback from a public consultation held in 2021.

These changes will replace the current requirements for pharmacists to spend at least two years on the register before enrolling on a course and for them to have previous experience in a specified clinical or therapeutic area.

Instead, applicants must have relevant experience in a pharmacy setting and be able to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber. This experience and awareness will act as the basis of their prescribing practice whilst training. 

It means current registered pharmacists and newly-qualified pharmacists joining the register over the next few years would be able to begin an independent prescriber course when they have demonstrated readiness, rather than simply completing a specified period.

The aim of the changes is to help meet the demand for more pharmacist independent prescribers from health services and patients.

To meet the new requirements, the following conditions have to be met:

  • Course providers will be required to assess the quality of the applicant’s previous experience, to make sure that pharmacists have the necessary skills and experience before starting the course
  • Applicants must identify an area of clinical or therapeutic practice on which to base their learning
  • Pharmacy professionals must meet the learning outcomes specified in the accredited course before they can be annotated as a prescriber

Consultation feedback 

The overwhelming majority of stakeholder organisations, including the Chief Pharmaceutical Officers, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the statutory education bodies, were in favour of removing the two-year time requirement for entry to free-standing pharmacist independent prescribing training. Respondents to the consultation highlighted that an individual’s experience and readiness were more robust indications of whether an individual was ready to become a prescriber than a specific two-year period. 

A smaller number of organisations and a larger minority of individuals were not in favour of the change, saying that a specific two-year period gave pharmacists the time they needed to develop experience and confidence before being ready to enrol on a course.  

A key issue raised was the importance of independent prescribers receiving appropriate support in the first few years after they successfully gain their qualification. The GPhC Council agreed that the new Post-Registration Assurance of Practice Advisory Group should take this work forward to ensure there is proper governance and support for independent prescribers. 

Another issue raised during the consultation was challenges around the limited number of designated prescribing practitioners available to supervise pharmacists undertaking the independent prescriber course. The GPhC is working closely with the statutory education bodies (Health Education England, Health Education and Improvement Wales and NHS Education Scotland) and other partners to explore innovative supervisory models to help make sure there is adequate supervision capacity (including designated prescribing practitioners) to supervise pharmacists undertaking independent prescriber training.

The strategic education bodies have begun to address pharmacist IP capacity by analysing the additional supervision capacity needed in each country and are commissioning additional training places.

GPhC Chief Executive Duncan Rudkin said:

“We are clear that appropriate experience is necessary before people can embark on a course leading to becoming an independent prescriber.

“We know some individuals and organisations responding to the consultation were concerned that removing the two-year requirement might mean that people started independent prescriber courses before they had the necessary experience, and this could affect patient safety.

“We believe the most effective assurance for patient safety comes from a requirement for pharmacists to have gained relevant experience in a pharmacy setting and their ability to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber, before they can get a place on an independent prescriber course.

“We will be producing further guidance with the input of our expert Advisory Group to help providers to understand what they must do to check each applicant has the necessary experience, skills and attributes.  We will then confirm when the changes will come into effect.

“The new Post-Registration Assurance of Practice Advisory Group that we are jointly establishing with the PSNI will also consider what further support and oversight should be put in place for pharmacist independent prescribers, to provide further assurance to patients and the public that they are practising safely and effectively, particularly in their first few years as prescribers.”