Pharmacist prescribing in Northern Ireland: a quantitative assessment

Int J Clin Pharm. 2011 Oct;33(5):824-31. doi: 10.1007/s11096-011-9545-7. Epub 2011 Aug 10.


Objective: Health care in the United Kingdom (UK) has undergone a significant change in terms of the range of professionals who are permitted to prescribe medications. This study aimed to capture information on pharmacist prescribing in Northern Ireland (NI).

Setting: Primary and secondary care in NI.

Method: A structured self-administered questionnaire was developed and sent to all pharmacists who were identified as qualified prescribers in NI (n = 105), although only 100 respondents provided details of their prescribing status i.e. currently prescribing, previous prescribers and those who had never prescribed. Three versions of the questionnaire were developed to accommodate each category of prescriber. The questionnaire, which sought information on clinical areas/practice settings of prescribers, their working arrangements and barriers to prescribing was distributed by mail on two occasions to maximise response rates. Descriptive analyses were used as appropriate, together with Chi-squared tests or Fisher exact tests to evaluate associations between responses and demographic information, with significance set a priori at P < 0.05. Qualitative data (from the free text response section) were analysed for recurring themes using content analysis.

Results: A response rate of 76.0% (n = 76) was achieved. There were more female respondents (73.7%) than males (26.3%). Nearly 50% of respondents were currently prescribing (n = 36; 47.4%), 46.1% (n = 35) had never prescribed and 6.6% (n = 5) had prescribed in the past. There were perceived benefits in terms of patient care and perception of the pharmacist within the health care team. A number of barriers to pharmacist prescribing were reported. Independent prescribing was viewed as the way forward, although pharmacists expressed reluctance to prescribe without a diagnosis or beyond the team setting.

Conclusion: Pharmacy prescribing has yet to fully embedded in routine practice. This study has shown that the number of qualified prescribers in NI is relatively small and not all have taken up prescribing responsibilities. Well recognised barriers were reported as reasons as to why qualified prescribers were unable to use their prescribing skills. Further research should provide an in-depth understanding of pharmacy prescribing in NI and examine patients' experiences of this form of practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Pharmacy Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Northern Ireland
  • Pharmacists / psychology
  • Pharmacists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Role / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires