The Department of Health has launched a consultation on proposals for physiotherapists and podiatrists to become independent prescribers of medicines.

It is also proposed that physiotherapists and podiatrists who become independent prescribers should be allowed to mix licensed medicines prior to administration and direct others to mix, and to be able to prescribe independently from a list of controlled drugs. This would be achieved primarily by changes to the Medicines Act 1968 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

The development of independent prescribing by physiotherapists and podiatrists is part of a drive to make better use of their skills and make it easier for patients to get access to the medicines they need, says the Department. Independent prescribing can enable new roles and new ways of working to improve the quality of services, and it facilitates partnership working across professional and organisational boundaries within commissioning/provider landscapes and with patients to redesign care pathways that are cost-effective and sustainable (such as improving the transition from acute to community care). It can also enhance choice and competition, maximising the benefits for patients and the taxpayer, it adds.

An Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Prescribing and Medicines Supply Mechanisms Scoping Project undertaken in 2009 found "a strong case" for extending independent prescribing to physiotherapists and podiatrists and, following a recommendation of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), two engagement exercises were undertaken in autumn 2010. These gathered information from a range of key stakeholders including professional bodies, Royal Colleges, individual practitioners and the public.

The response to the two engagement exercises was overwhelmingly positive, says the Department. 388 responses were received in total - 83% from individuals and 17% from organisations - and of these, 91% supported independent prescribing by physiotherapies and podiatrists, 2% were in favour of no change and the remaining 7% were undecided or not selecting a preference.

The responses suggested that a public consultation would be an opportunity to provide clarification on queries raised by respondents to the engagement exercises, particularly on the content of the education programmes and the governance frameworks across regulatory, professional and prescribing bodies.

The range of options being consulted on are: 1 - independent prescribing for any condition from a full formulary; 2 - independent prescribing for specified conditions from a specified formulary; 3 - independent prescribing for any condition from a specified formulary; - 4 - independent prescribing for specified conditions from a full formulary; and 5 - no change.

The consultation runs until December 8. For further details, visit the Department website: or email Sally Brown at the AHP Professional Leadership Team at: