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Non-medical prescribing in primary care in the UK: an overview of the current literature

02 January 2023
Volume 5 · Issue 1



Non-medical prescribers are perceived as a complement to busy general practice in primary care.


To conduct an overview of the literature available on the role and impact of non-medical prescribers on primary care patients.


A search was conducted using multiple databases to find articles published between January 2015-January 2021. Inclusion criteria: non-medical prescribers in primary care in the UK, written in the English language. Exclusion criteria: research conducted in secondary care or outside the UK.


285 studies were identified; 15 were eligible for critical appraisal. The key themes were: non-medical prescriber's positive perceptions were autonomy, job satisfaction and colleague support. The negative perceptions included risk, lack of continuous professional development and organisational support.


By reviewing the perceptions of non-medical prescribing in primary care, organisations can ensure when employing new non-medical prescribers that adequate continued professional development and support is in place. Thereby reducing the concerns of non-medical prescribers about the ligation risk of prescribing.

The new NHS Long Term Plan (Winter, 2019) proposed an additional 20 000 non-medical prescribing (NMP) roles for primary care. Inadequacies within traditional doctor-led care systems means that to maintain patient access to prescription medicines, new approaches are urgently required. Allied health professionals, such as therapeutic radiographers, have been identified as having an integral part in the required transformational change (Chief Allied Health Professional Officers' Team, 2017). A reduction in the number of General Practitioners (GP) and the new ways of working in primary care are prompting the need for NMPs to fill these gaps (Winter, 2019).

After nurses lobbied parliament for years to be legally allowed to prescribe, nurses slowly earned more and more prescribing rights, until April 2006, when they were given the same prescribing rights as doctors (Pearce, 2016). This exceeds any other non-medical prescribing rights anywhere in the world and initially caused great concern in the medical profession (Avery and Pringle, 2005; British Medical Association [BMA] 2005; Day, 2006). However, NMP is now seen to complement busy general practitioners in primary care (Courtenay et al, 2017).

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