Boost for prescribers training

A major new health initiative will help boost the number of pharmacist prescribers across the country.

Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand is partnering with the University of Auckland and the University of Otago to fund more places across both schools’ pharmacist prescribing programmes from 2024-26.

The programmes are a 60-point level 8 qualification that enable pharmacists, as part of a multidisciplinary health team, to participate in as well as evaluate and challenge prescribing practice.

Otago University dean of the School of Pharmacy Prof Carlo Marra said pharmacist prescribers filled a crucial gap in the health system where there might be a lack of access to general practitioners (GPs).

"With the GP shortages, pharmacist prescribers can help to fill gaps in a certain way by filling in the prescribing space.

"If you look at places like Canada and Scotland, they're very much embedded in the health system, and we're not at that stage yet."

Prof Marra said based on the diagnosis of a medical practitioner, and depending on the clinical needs of the patient, a pharmacist prescriber could assess the effectiveness of a patient’s current medicines, review and interprets test results, make a prescribing decision to modify the dosage of an existing medicine, and initiate or discontinue medicines.

"People see pharmacists about 10 times more than other healthcare providers, so having access to a provider who can also prescribe is a big advantage," Prof Marra said.

"It’s a postgraduate course, so they learn more critical decision-making, more clinical therapeutics, and a lot more around prescribing, so they can be safe, effective prescribers."

Prof Marra said although pharmacist prescribing courses were introduced to New Zealand in 2012, there were only about 50 pharmacist prescribers registered to work in New Zealand.

"I think it’s good to see a full scope of practice. This additional qualification is exciting in that regard; it helps fill shortages and equity gaps."

Each school of pharmacy will deliver an extra 30 training places annually, with a total of 80 training places available in 2024.