The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) says the pharmacy regulator should maintain a two-year post qualification eligibility criteria, in addition to the qualitative measures being introduced which would be in the best interest of patient safety, before a pharmacist is allowed to commence an IP course.

The association was responding to an announcement by the GPhC’s move to scrap the two year requirement for Independent Prescribing (IP) course.

“The PDA accepts that the qualitative approach could mean greater individual consideration of potential IP course candidates and the two-year measure could have sometimes been a blunt tool. However, the PDA is already seeing cases of patient harm and allegations around fitness to practice arising from IP,” the association said.

The association also said that it supports individual pharmacists with near misses, as well as actual incidents, giving the organisation possibly the most comprehensive understanding of risk.

Frontline pharmacists also recognise these issues and in a survey of over 1,000 pharmacists undertaken by the PDA in late 2021, of those who had 2+ years’ experience of practice and who were already independent prescribers, 90 per cent said the qualifying period should be two years or more.

“An additional 3.2 per cent were unsure, leaving just 6.8 per cent in agreement with those who suggested the requirement should be removed, as the GPhC has now done.”

The PDA believes this is extremely significant as those in this category have lived experience of the reality of being an independent prescriber.

It added: “Although the regulator has chosen to remove the two-year qualifying period this does not necessarily mean that those who lack post-qualification experience need to be the next to undertake IP courses. With aspirations that many, perhaps most, of the existing profession will eventually also become IPs, HEE and other bodies could make efforts to encourage those who already have the experience of practice to undertake the courses.

“There are also ways in which risk could be mitigated for those new to being an IP, through a gradual or limited introduction to prescribing which would build confidence and competence in a planned and managed pathway.”

If you want to share your stories and/or experiences with us, please send an email to [email protected]