Tuesday, 21 May, 2024
HomePolicy and LawEngland's pharmacists allowed to prescribe antibiotics without GP approval

England's pharmacists allowed to prescribe antibiotics without GP approval

From next year, pharmacists in England will be able to prescribe antibiotics to customers without seeing their GPs or without their approval, but the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that making it easier to access medication is neither good for patients nor the way to reduce GP pressures.

BMA GP Committee deputy chair Dr Richard Van Mellaerts highlighted the dangers of overusing antibiotics, which risks making them less effective and can even make some infections more difficult to treat, subsequently increasing pressure on the health service.

Just four months ago, the government set out a new commitment to mitigate “just in case” antibiotic prescribing in general practice as part of its strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Van Mellaerts also said that making it easier for others to prescribe antibiotics was not the way to reduce the need for GP appointments or wider pressures in general practice, reports Pulse.

Instead, he urged for more funding and resources for practices, community-based services like mental health clinics, and towards retaining and recruiting more GPs.

“Government must focus on truly beneficial, long-term solutions, not just short-sighted quick fixes that ultimately put patient safety in jeopardy,” he said.

A spokesperson for health secretary Dr Thérèse Coffey said: “The secretary of state has explored a range of policy options to relieve pressure on GPs, including whether it is possible to allow greater prescribing by pharmacists – as happens in many places, including Scotland.

“These discussions included reflections on the importance of anti-microbial resistance and societal behaviours around antibiotics.”

NHS England said that pharmacists are already allowed to prescribe medicines within their clinical competence if they have a prescribing qualification, with an estimated 1 000 out of circa 27 000 community pharmacists already holding this.

Pharmacist prescribing would also be part of specific clinical services or patient pathways such as hypertension, high cholesterol, contraception or minor illnesses.

The NHS added that pharmacists prescribing antibiotics for UTIs alone could save 400 000 GP appointments a year and £8.4m, based on data from Scotland.

A similar service was introduced in Wales in April, where pharmacies can prescribe drugs including antibiotics without involving a GP.

Public health officials warned earlier this year of a rise in extremely antibiotic-resistant Shigella sonnei infections, while a separate study showed that GPs practising under pressure were more likely to prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics.


Pulse article – Making antibiotics more accessible ‘not the way to reduce GP pressure’, says BMA (Open access)


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