Community pharmacists must be allowed to routinely prescribe medicines for people with long-term conditions and make direct referrals to other healthcare professionals in order to lessen the burden on the NHS, the RPS urges in a new report that will be launched at the House of Commons on 30 November.
The report argues that there should be a change in policy regarding who may mentor a prescriber, as if more pharmacists are able to train as prescribers – currently, only six per cent of registered pharmacists are prescribers – they would be able to contribute more to the care of patients whose condition is stable but who must be monitored regularly. This is backed up by a recent Cochrane review showing that non-doctor prescribers are as effective as medical prescribers.
The RPS is also calling for pharmacists to be able to refer directly to other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists or hospital consultants, rather than having to tell patients to see their GP, as this could help ensure that those with complex needs access care more quickly.
RPS England chair Sandra Gidley said: “Our proposals mean pharmacists, working with GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and patients will be central to taking on the challenges and improving the care of people with long-term conditions. In light of the funding changes to community pharmacy, the RPS is redoubling its efforts to find new roles for pharmacists and ensure they are an integral part of the multidisciplinary team.
“The double whammy of an ageing population and the associated increase in the number of people living with one or more long-term conditions is pushing the NHS to crisis point. To cope with this demand, we need a radical reform of how care is provided to this group of patients and the time has come for the government to enable this to happen.”
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “It is so important that patients have quick and easy access to care. Being able to speak to a local pharmacist could mean that patients are able to access the right care closer to home or their workplace; completely removing the challenges of booking an appointment with a GP, cutting out waiting times and taking out the worry for many patients who get anxious visiting a surgery."