Prescribing rights for Chiropractors?

Leeds Chiropractor Alison Eaves discusses the issue of whether Chiropractors should be following Physiotherapists and Podiatrists and asking for prescribing rights?

It was a couple of weeks ago that it was announced Physiotherapists and Podiatrists had been awarded prescribing rights. This means that, subject to further training, they will be able to prescribe medication such as painkillers without having to speak first to a patient’s GP. The argument goes that if they can prescribe painkillers and save on a GP consultation then this frees up appointments in GP surgeries for those in real need. I see no problem with this, given appropriate training and support is in place.

Prescribing rights for Chiropractors has been debated within the profession for a number of years but we don’t seem any closer to a consensus. Historically, Chiropractors have described their profession as ”drug-free” and have always been against prescribing rights, but there are some calling for a change. I for one support this change, for those Chiropractors, like myself, who want to push the profession forward and offer the best possible service to our patients. Do I think every patient with back pain needs painkillers? NO. Do I think that painkillers are without side effects? NO. Do I think taking painkillers to mask the pain is a good idea? NO. But I do think that in certain cases patients can benefit from a short course of medication for pain control.

I think that Chiropractors are in a great position to know and understand their patient’s needs, and decide where medication may be appropriate. Currently you have to wait for a GP to prescribe medication which may take several days or even weeks by the time patients can get an appointment with their GP.

I understand that some Chiropractor’s would not want prescribing rights. Fine, individual Chiropractors can decide whether it is the correct decision for them and their style of practice. I personally don’t think that every patient over the age of 50 presenting with back pain needs an x-ray (and in fact rarely request x-rays)but some Chiropractors would disagree. I wouldn’t stop them from practising in this way, as long as they can justify their method of practice with good evidence and reasoning. But by blocking prescribing rights for all Chiropractors, you limit the scope of practice of others who are keen to have that skill and knowledge? Surely if it is in the patient’s best interest then that is what counts? There are so many differences in the style of practice of different Chiropractors anyway that I don’t think the issue of prescribing rights will make any difference to the public perception of our profession.

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