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The Allied Health Professions Medicines Project Lead at NHS England gives her views on the impact new legislation relating to prescribing, supply and administration of medicines will bring to the quality of care patients receive from eligible Allied Health Professions (AHPs):
The announcement by Ministers that the law will change to include the introduction of independent prescribing by therapeutic radiographers, supplementary prescribing by dietitians and the use of exemptions by orthoptists can only be regarded as fantastic news for patients.
The amount of time spent waiting for medicines, as a part of their treatment from these AHPs, is about to be cut dramatically. This new way of working will bring about timely access to medicines so that patients get maximum benefit with fewer appointments needed with other healthcare professionals.
It’s also great news for the people working in these professions – it is a significant endorsement for them and the work they do to treat and care for people. This will allow them to provide optimum care in a timely manner.
Patients may also benefit from further changes to legislation in the future. At present the Commission on Human Medicines hasn’t supported the proposals to introduce independent prescribing by paramedics and diagnostic radiographers, but NHS England will continue working with colleagues at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Department of Health and the professional bodies to take these proposals forward.
If they haven’t already, AHP colleagues working as Dietitians, Orthoptists or Therapeutic Radiographers should start to think about what these changes to legislation will mean for the future of the services they provide and how these changes will facilitate service redesign around the needs of patients.
They should proactively start conversations with their managers and commissioners about how their local services can be revamped, improved, taken to the next level – all for the benefit of the patients they serve.
And before we all get carried away, I should say that eligible colleagues will need to go through additional training where there is an identified need for them to make use of these new responsibilities within their practices. Furthermore, these changes will not apply to the whole workforce and only advanced level dietitians and therapeutic radiographers will be able to access prescribing courses.
Colleagues should be in contact with their professional bodies to make sure they understand the changes to legislation and how they can access training to become qualified to use the extended prescribing or supply and administration mechanisms available to them.
Today NHS England has published summaries of the responses to the consultations held regarding these changes. They can be accessed on the NHS England website along with links to a series of supporting documents on the following pages:
- Independent prescribing by therapeutic radiographers
- Independent prescribing by paramedics
- Supplementary prescribing by dietitians
- Use of exemptions within the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 by orthoptists
In terms of timeframes, expectations will need to be managed as this will not happen overnight and will require some time to come to fruition – with training programmes needing to be approved by the Health and are Professions Council now that the legislation has been passed. Although the changes to legislation are UK-wide, the NHS regulations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are matters for consideration by the relevant Devolved Administrations. You can read the new legislation which is published on legislation.gov.uk website.
These changes – set to make such a huge difference for patients and the people who deliver the services – will take place in England over the next 18 months while eligible practitioners complete their relevant training courses. But they wouldn’t have come about at all if not for the support received from colleagues in the Devolved Administrations and the British Dietetic Association, the British and Irish Orthoptic Society and the Society and College of Radiographers.
As Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer, NHS England, has said, today’s announcement will help develop a more flexible workforce, able to make better use of their skills and innovate to provide services more responsive to the needs of patients, whilst also being cost effective.