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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Podiatrists to be granted independent prescribing powers

Published: 26 July 2012

A University of Southampton academic has supported plans that could allow podiatrists to prescribe medication for the first time by saying it will give patients greater access to treatment and relieve some pressure on other clinical staff.

Dr Alan Borthwick, Senior Lecturer and Professional Lead (Podiatry) at the University of Southampton, played a key role in the plans through his position on the Department of Health AHP Medicines Project Board, as representative of the Allied Health Professions Federation.

The proposals for changes to legislation, announced by Ministers on 24 July 2012, will help improve the patient pathway.

This will increase access and speed of treatment for patients with conditions which affect the foot, ankle and associated structures. Amendments to the Medicines Act (1968) are expected to be laid before Parliament in Autumn 2012. If agreed, registered podiatrists will be able to undertake newly developed education programmes. Upon successful completion of the programme podiatrists will have their entry on the HPC register annotated to indicate they are able to independently prescribe. This 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 relevant medicines and help reduce any delays in treatment.

Dr Borthwick, who also works with The College of Podiatry, says: "These planned changes to legislation will mean that patients will be able to receive more prompt and better access to treatment, helping to reduce the pressure on other health care professionals. It will provide the podiatry profession with greater flexibility to prescribe and supply appropriate treatment to meet individual patient needs."

There are an estimated 11.2 million patient visits to podiatrists each year, for a range of conditions such as, arthritic disorders in the lower limb, infections of the feet and sports injuries. The new legislation will particularly benefit people with diabetic infections of the feet, acute infections such as wounds and ingrown toe nails, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle, and dermatological conditions of the feet such as fungal infections, who will now be able to receive medicines, if required, more promptly. There are 2.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 850,000 people who have it but don't know it[1]. Antibiotics to treat infection are one of the medicines independent prescriber podiatrists will be able to prescribe.

Arthritis is also on the rise, with 60% of cases in the feet and medicines will be able to be prescribed by podiatrists to treat it.

Chairman of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists Alison Wishart comments, "Independent prescribing provides podiatrists with the opportunity to improve services for patients - ensuring timely access to medicine and care closer to home."

Alongside podiatry, the planned changes would also give physiotherapists independent prescribing responsibilities Health care professions, in addition to medical doctors, that have independent prescribing responsibilities include nurses, pharmacists and optometrists.

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