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The Chief Professions Officers’ Medicines Mechanism Programme Lead at NHS England explains why allowing advanced paramedics new prescribing responsibilities is so vital:
I am elated that changes to legislation will enable paramedics to independently prescribe medicines. This is great news for patients, the profession and the NHS.
It has taken a number of years to reach this stage of the journey but the paybacks will be significant; patients will experience care closer to home, timelier access to medicines and improved outcomes.
The changes will also help reduce the demand for GP appointments and emergency department attendances whilst also fully utilising the skills of advanced paramedics as part of the multi-disciplinary team.
These changes are great news for the paramedic profession and are an endorsement of the role they play in providing high quality care for patients in urgent and emergency care. The profession has developed significantly over recent years; as has the College of Paramedics which is the professional body representing paramedics across the UK. Together they are now in a strong place to take these changes forwards for the benefit of patients.
Particular credit should be given to Gerry Egan, Chief Executive Officer and also Andy Collen, Medicines and Prescribing Project Lead, both from the College of Paramedics, for their leadership and the continued support that they have given to the NHS England team responsible for delivery of this change.
Paramedic independent prescribing will be typically undertaken by advanced paramedics working in primary and urgent care settings such as GP practices, urgent treatment centres or other similar services. Advanced paramedics who are now commonly placed in many Emergency Departments are also likely to make use of the new prescribing responsibilities.
Although work to enable these changes has been on-going for a number of years, this is really just the start of the journey for paramedics. Now they need to think about how they can implement this pioneering change to make our urgent and emergency care services world-leading. I would encourage all paramedics to engage with the College of Paramedics to make sure they understand the changes to legislation.
Expectations need to be managed; we won’t see paramedics prescribing in practice until later this year at the earliest as eligible paramedics will need to complete a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) non-medical prescribing education programme.
Once paramedics have completed their prescribing programme their entry on the HCPC register will be annotated to state that they are both a supplementary and independent prescriber. Although supplementary prescribing probably won’t be routinely used in practice by paramedics due to the nature of their work, there may be some instances where supplementary prescribing would be appropriate for example, where paramedics are caring for patients with long-term conditions as part of the multi-disciplinary team in GP practices.
It is also important to recognise that although these changes were led by NHS England, the changes to legislation apply UK-wide. Changes to NHS regulations in Scotland have already occurred and Wales and Northern Ireland will now consider whether they roll this out and, if so, when.
Over the next year these changes are set to make a significant difference for patients and the way paramedics are involved in delivering services – I look forward to supporting patients and the public, the profession, the College of Paramedics and others to successfully implement these changes.