Pharmacists in Northern Ireland may be able to access independent prescribing (IP) training earlier because they will no longer be required to be registered for two years before it can begin.

Following consideration of the responses to a recent public consultation, the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society Northern Ireland (CPSNI) has approved in principle to drop of the requirement for pharmacists to have been on the register for two years before they can join prescribing courses and to replace it with an assessment before admission. 

Dr Jim Livingstone, president of the CPSNI said that while the objective of the body is to protect the public, it should not provide 'an unnecessary barrier' to the professional development of pharmacists.

He explained: 'The current requirement to be on the register for two years before being eligible to gain entry onto a standalone IP course, does not tell us much about a candidate’s suitability. Replacing it with a focused assessment of competence should increase accessibility, whilst providing public protection.

'The public can also be assured that the educational outcomes, that must be met to practise as an independent prescriber, remain the same.'

The CPSNI, in conjunction with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, will now work towards a further public consultation regarding the necessary legislative changes required before the new requirements for training are introduced.

The decision taken by the CPSNI follows on from the agreement made by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) earlier this year for pharmacists across the rest of the UK to be able to access accredited independent prescribing courses once they had 'demonstrated readiness' rather than have to first spend two years on the GPhC register. 

The aim of the change, the GPhC said at the time, was to help meet the demand for more pharmacist independent prescribers from health services and patients.