RPS revises position on prescribing and dispensing by same healthcare professional

Published on: 26th January 2024 | Updated on: 26th January 2024

Position statement on prescribing with explanation

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has revised and updated its position on the separation of prescribing and dispensing or administration of a medicine by the same healthcare professional in response to changing practices in healthcare.

Previous guidance emphasised the need for separation of prescribing and dispensing, other than in exceptional circumstances, originating from the 1999 Crown Report.

The new position statement, along with supporting professional guidance developed jointly with the Royal College of Nursing, (RCN) allows for more flexibility. It clarifies that where clinical circumstances make it necessary, and in the best interests of the patient, the same healthcare professional can safely be responsible for the prescribing, dispensing, supply and administration of medicines.

This position was agreed following an extensive year-long engagement exercise with medical associations, members, fellows, expert advisory groups, patient groups and the RPS Country Boards. The statement recognises that independent prescribers across all professions are already prescribing and supplying or administering medicines for the same patient. Being unable to do so would potentially have a negative impact on patient experience and care.

In these situations, a risk assessment should be conducted to establish if prescribing, dispensing and supply or administration of medicines by the same person is in the best interests of the patient. A robust audit trail of the decisions should be made and the actions taken should then be communicated with other professionals supporting the patient’s care.

RPS President Professor Claire Anderson said:

“Following a consultation with a prescribing pharmacist, a patient may be asked to go to a different pharmacy to have the medicine dispensed, which may not be practical and may also delay or prevent patients who are unwell getting the medicines they need quickly.

“Our revised position acknowledges the changing landscape of education, training and practice related to prescribing and aims to address the needs of an increasingly diverse and dynamic healthcare system.

“Allowing flexibility in prescribing and dispensing practices ensures that patient safety remains paramount while adapting to rapidly changing healthcare practice. The heart of this change is centred on the delivery of effective and patient-centred care by healthcare professionals including pharmacists.”

Heather Randle, UK Nursing Professional Lead for Primary Care at the RCN, said:

“This more flexible approach to the prescribing, dispensing, supply and administration of medicines aligns with the evolving roles of nurses and aligns with patient-centred care. As we navigate these changes, the new guidance will ensure that best practice remains at the heart of patient care and safety.”