This week, we joined with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the British Dietetic Association, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, and the Society of Radiographers to call on the Government to extend prescribing rights to our members.
In a joint letter to Jo Churchill, the Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, we called on the Government to use the opportunity of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill’s passage through Parliament to maximise the impact of our members.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the potential for AHPs to take on new and extended roles to support stretched services. Indeed, many orthoptists already work in advanced and extended roles in ophthalmology, the largest speciality in terms of outpatient attendances. They will therefore play a key role in supporting these already stretched services during the next recovery phase. Independent prescribing would enable orthoptists and other AHPs to rise even more to the immediate challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also give them additional tools to address future challenges to the health and social care system.
Our case for prescribing rights to be extended is simple: it will deliver a range of benefits to patient care and potential savings to the NHS, including but not exclusively:
- better support and more timely care for the patients we work with, including enabling them to have more timely and equitable access to treatment;
- improved patient safety because as AHPs with appropriate expertise we are best placed to make some safe medication decisions. This may be especially relevant at present given the COVID-19 pandemic where clinicians are being re-deployed into less familiar settings and potentially signing off on medication in an area where they have less experience than the AHP;
- reduced pressure on other stretched professionals, including GPs. If AHPs were given the required prescribing rights, it would enable them in many situations to manage the patient’s care pathway, therefore freeing up other clinicians’ time;
- improved system efficiency, both from the perspective of the patient and other health professionals. Prescribing rights would enable AHPs to manage medications as part of seeing a patient, without the need for a referral and appointment with another clinician, resulting in a significant reduction in unnecessary delays and costs.
We are calling for:
- supplementary prescribing rights to be extended to occupational therapists; and
- independent prescribing rights to be extended to dietitians, occupational therapists, orthoptists, diagnostic radiographers and speech and language therapists.
This message was repeated in a joint submission to the Public Bill Committee examining the Medicines and Medical Devices.