Pharmacists should not have to practise for two years after registration before training as independent prescribers, the majority of sector stakeholders told the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) as part of a consultation. 

In a report discussing the results of its eight-week consultation on independent prescribing, the regulator said that just over half of all 1,164 individual respondents (55%) agreed that the two-year requirement for entry to free-standing pharmacist independent prescribing training should be removed

It said that agreement was much stronger among organisational bodies than individuals, with ‘a large majority’ of organisations (81%) saying they should remove the two-year requirement, compared with a ‘slender majority’ of individuals (54%). 

The consultation received 2,211 responses in total; 1,164 from individuals and 47 on behalf of an organisation.

Reasons for agreement

Some of those in favour of the proposal said that time spent working as a pharmacist was not an effective determinant of experience and skills. They also said that the five years of university training on the MPharm course gave pharmacists the necessary skills to prescribe as soon as they finish education. 

Those against the proposal raised concerns that removing the two-year experience requirement to train as an IP would increase pressure on pharmacists at an early stage of their career. They also said that the two additional years of experience in practice helps pharmacists gain confidence and allows them to settle into their role before taking on the added responsibility of prescribing.  

The GPhC said it was now ‘working through the important points highlighted in the consultation’ and will engage ‘further with our advisory group for the initial education and training standards for pharmacists who have been closely involved in the development of thinking on this issue’.  

This comes as a recently published Government-commissioned review concluded that the clinical skills of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians need to be upgraded to tackle overprescribing.  

Last year, the GPhC approved the new standards for the initial education and training (IET) of pharmacists, which will make prescribing skills an ‘integral part’ of the training programme.  

Community Pharmacy Wales has previously urged the Welsh Government to ensure there is at least one independent prescriber in each pharmacy across the country by 2030, while RPS Wales called for further integration of pharmacist independent prescribing into ‘routine NHS care’.  

In August last year, the Scottish Government announced it would launch a formal career pathway designed to boost independent prescriber numbers in community pharmacy.