Pharmacist non-medical prescribing in primary care. A systematic review of views, opinions, and attitudes

Int J Clin Pract. 2021 Mar;75(3):e13827. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.13827. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Background: Uptake of non-medical prescribing by pharmacists working in primary care has been slow. This is despite benefits such as quicker and more efficient access to medicines for patients, a reduction in doctor workload, and enhanced professional satisfaction. This systematic review explores the views, opinions, and attitudes of pharmacists and graduates towards non-medical prescribing.

Methods: Medline, ScienceDirect, Embase, and the University of Reading Summon Service were searched to identify qualitative and mixed methods papers that examined the views, opinions, and attitudes of pharmacists and graduates towards non-medical prescribing. Papers published between January 2003 and September 2017 were included. Studies were quality assessed using the CASP checklist and then analysed using thematic synthesis.

Results: After 85 full-text articles were assessed, a final 14 studies were eligible for inclusion. The included studies assessed pharmacists who currently prescribe, and other pharmacists and graduates with familiarity of non-medical prescribing. Thematic synthesis identified two themes: (1) practice environment, and (2) pharmacist's role. Non-medical prescribing was considered a natural extension to the role of a pharmacist despite difficulties in completing the required training. The ability to then prescribe was dependent on funding and access to medical records, time, and support staff. Pharmacists experienced professional rivalry with both support and resistance from members of the primary care team. The provision of training was frequently referred to as unsatisfactory. Pharmacists were motivated to prescribe, deriving increased job satisfaction and a sense of professionalism; however, they often felt underprepared for the reality of unsupervised practice. Furthermore, pharmacists reported a cautious approach with a fear of making errors frequently discussed.

Conclusions: This review has identified themes and subsequent barriers and facilitators to non-medical prescribing. Many of the barriers are more perceived than real and are diminishing. Consideration of these will assist and advance pharmacist prescribing in primary care, leading to positive outcomes for both patient care and the pharmacy profession.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists*
  • Physicians*
  • Primary Health Care