On 24 July 2012, ministers announced their agreement to lay amendments to medicines legislation before Parliament that will permit independent prescribing rights for suitably qualified physiotherapists and podiatrists.  

The new legislation will mean that physiotherapists and podiatrists can now prescribe drugs relevant to their area of practice. The decision follows nearly a decade of campaigns by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP). Physiotherapists and podiatrists will join some senior nurses and pharmacists who already have prescribing rights. 

The groundbreaking decision means that these health care professionals will no longer have to refer their patients back to a doctor if medication is needed. It will also mean that physiotherapists and podiatrists in the United Kingdom will be the first in the world to be able to independently prescribe drugs. Health minister Lord Earl Howe states:

“By introducing these changes, we aim to make the best use of their skills and allow patients to benefit from a faster and more effective service, without compromising on safety"  Many healthcare professionals believe that this change will lead to more efficient use of the NHS’ resources, and a streamlined service for patients.

The legislation is due to come into effect in April 2013.

In my opinion, any steps to reduce undue delays in the provision of patient care are welcomed. Nonetheless, these changes must always be introduced under a watchful eye to ensure the safety and wellbeing of patients. It will be interesting to see whether following the changes there is a shift in the type of concerns raised with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC), the regulator for physiotherapists and podiatrists.

Read the Department of Health press release