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GPhC defends decision to scrap IP rule despite concerns over inexperience

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GPhC defends decision to scrap IP rule despite concerns over inexperience

By Neil Trainis

The General Pharmaceutical Council has defended its decision to scrap the requirement for pharmacists to have at least two years’ experience before enrolling on an accredited independent prescribing course despite expressing concerns only last month that clinically inexperienced prescribers are working for online pharmacies. 

The regulator told Independent Community Pharmacist that “an overwhelming majority of stakeholder organisations” who responded to a consultation last year, including the chief pharmaceutical officers, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and statutory educational bodies, supported removing the requirement.

According to the GPhC, 55 per cent of a respondent base made up of individuals and those representing organisations agreed the two-year rule should be removed but insisted “agreement was much stronger amongst organisations than individuals".

The GPhC told ICP that those in favour of removing the rule believed the specific two-year timeframe “was not in itself a robust indication of whether an individual was ready to become a prescriber.”

“They also highlighted that the rapidly developing roles in the profession meant more pharmacists were likely to gain the necessary experience more quickly than in the past,” the regulator said. 

However, the GPhC stressed that taking away the two-year requirement did not mean pharmacists can start prescribing as soon as they are registered.

“They must meet the learning outcomes specified in the accredited course before they can be annotated as a prescriber,” it said.

“There is broad agreement that patient safety is enshrined both in the requirement to have relevant experience before enrolling and on successful completion of the course which is evidenced before annotation.”

The GPhC was confident that removal of the rule will not put patients at risk. “On balance, we believe the most effective assurance for patient safety comes from a requirement for pharmacists to have gained relevant experience in a pharmacy setting and their ability to recognise, understand and articulate the skills and attributes required by a prescriber,” it said.

“The Initial Education and Training for Pharmacists Advisory Group highlighted this with the concept of ‘readiness.’ This, aligned with the continued requirement for people to complete the prescribing course successfully before they can be annotated, provides a more effective approach than relying on a specific time period which does not reflect an individual’s own readiness.”

However, the GPhC’s director of inspection and fitness-to-practise Claire Bryce-Smith told the Clinical Pharmacy Congress last month that it had found “clinically inexperienced independent prescribers operating online” as well as increasing numbers of online pharmacies failing to meet standards.

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