The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has called for the removal of the requirement that pharmacists must have two years of clinical practice experience to begin independent prescribing (IP) training, in order to support increased workforce demand. 

This comes in response to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) consultation on changes to training requirements, which launched in September and which ends today (23 November).

RPS has suggested that entry to independent prescribing training should be based upon whether pharmacists can prove they have the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to undertake the training, rather than the period someone had been on the register. 

Removing the two-year entry requirement will help support the increased demand for pharmacist independent prescribers and ‘support integration into multi-professional service models where patient access to pharmacist independent prescribers is part of routine care,’ RPS said.  

It comes after the RPS and The Royal College of General Practitioners last week called for the role of community pharmacists to be expanded to include the supply of certain prescription-only medicine for the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) to be successful. 

Meanwhile, the Government commissioned a review in September which concluded that the clinical skills of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians need to be upgraded to tackle overprescribing. 

In its response to GPhC’s consultation, RPS also said that removing the requirement would help to ensure pharmacy remains an attractive career.  

‘Pharmacy is one of the fastest-growing areas of healthcare and we want it to remain an attractive career choice. When we discussed with student and trainee pharmacists what they expected their future practice to be like, it is clear that clinical practice, including IP, is what most of them expect,’ they said.  

Results from a survey conducted by the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA) suggested that over 80% (84.3%) of pharmacy students are in favour of the proposed removal of the requirements.  

‘It can be concluded that most of our members feel the changes set out in proposal one and two will help pharmacists, trainees and students have equal opportunities and access to professional development, the job market and training,’ the BPSA said.  

RPS said many of its members were concerned that newly qualified pharmacists would lack the experience needed to qualify for independent prescribing training.  

However, the BPSA said that most of its members felt ‘confident’ that the MPharm course and foundation training year ‘sufficiently equips them for enrollment onto the course’. 

Claire Anderson, RPS president professor, said: ‘We’ve campaigned strongly for better use of pharmacist independent prescribers, who are becoming essential to multi-professional teams in all health care settings. 

‘We want to ensure pharmacy remains an attractive career and has parity with the other professions. Pharmacist prescribing is now moving from being a skill only associated with advanced specialist levels of practice to a more generalist scope, providing a workforce that’s more flexible with a shared set of capabilities. 

‘One of the benefits of a generalist scope is the ability to use prescribing as part of holistic care, focusing on the patient rather than their condition. 

‘Creating safe, competent prescribers at all career stages is essential. Prescribing by newly registered pharmacists should look quite different to that done by more senior pharmacists and will increase in complexity in line with their experience and competence. 

She added: ‘We recognise there are challenges in the removal of the two-year limit, but the prize is a new level of practise across the profession which will help transform care for patients.’ 

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.