Independent Prescribing Update 20 August 2013

footsurgeryNew laws that came into force on Tuesday 20th August, announced by Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb, will mean that rather than having to refer patients to other health care professionals such as GPs for prescriptions, podiatrists will be able to prescribe appropriate medicines and help reduce any delays in treatment. The legislation will improve access and speed of treatment for patients with conditions which affect the foot, ankle and associated structures.

It is expected that patients will start to reap the benefits from summer next year when the first wave of podiatrists will have passed their courses.  Independent prescribing rights will be granted to registered podiatrists who undertake newly approved education programmes which will commence from early 2014. These programmes will be provided by universities. Upon successful completion of the programme, the podiatrist will have their entry on the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register annotated to indicate they are able to independently prescribe. The HCPC regulates health and care professions in the UK.

Matthew Fitzpatrick from The College of Podiatry and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Podiatric Medicine said: ” The new legislation will particularly benefit people with diabetic infections of the feet, acute infections such as wounds and ingrown toenails, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle and dermatological conditions of the feet, such as fungal infections. These patients, if required, will now be able to receive medicines more promptly.”

Joanna Brown, chief executive of The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists added:
“Providing independent prescribing rights to health professionals such as podiatrists will provide patients with more prompt and better access to treatment. It will also help to reduce the pressure on other health care professionals.”

Podiatrists practise within the NHS as well as in the private setting, dealing with the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of feet and the lower limb. There are an estimated 11.2 million patient visits to podiatrists each year, for a range of foot conditions such as arthritic disorders in the lower limb, infections of the feet and sports injuries.

Podiatrists have a long history of post-registration education and training in access, supply and administration of prescription only (and pharmacy only) medicines. Approval for use of local anaesthetics agents was provided to the profession in 1980 and since 2005 podiatrists have had supplementary prescribing responsibilities under The Medicines for Human Use (Prescribing) Order 2005 (SI No 765). Pharmacology also forms part of the pre-registration podiatry qualification.
Alongside podiatry, the planned changes would also give physiotherapists independent prescribing responsibilities. Health care professions, in addition to medical prescribers like doctors and dentists, that have independent prescribing responsibilties include nurses, pharmacists and optometrists.