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Non-Medical Prescribing and Advanced Clinical Practice Explained

Healthcare in the UK is a fast-paced sector subject to ongoing change and transformation.  Current focus has largely been on the recruitment and training of new nurses.  However, more recently we have also seen increased recognition of the importance of Non-Medical Prescribing and Advanced Clinical Practice roles for the future of the healthcare workforce. 

Both Non-Medical Prescribing and Advanced Clinical Practice have been highlighted in the 2019 NHS Long Term Plan and 2020/21 People Plan as key to workforce transformation and improving care.  Here, we explain more about these roles and the contribution that these highly trained healthcare professionals make within multidisciplinary healthcare teams.


What is Non-Medical Prescribing?

A Non-Medical Prescriber is a registered healthcare professional who has undertaken further training, allowing them to prescribe medications to patients within their field of expertise.  Non-Medical Prescribers come from a range of registered healthcare backgrounds, including nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and other allied health professions such as paramedics, physiotherapists and radiographers. 

Non-Medical Prescribers are highly trained and must complete a course approved or accredited by their professional regulator, enabling them to prescribe safely and effectively.  Depending on their profession, Non-Medical Prescribers may be able to prescribe independently and/or as a supplementary prescriber or as a Community Practitioner Nurse Prescriber (District Nurses and Specialist Community Public Health Nurses).


What is the difference between an independent and supplementary prescriber?

Within Non-Medical Prescribing, an independent prescriber can assess diagnosed or undiagnosed patients and create treatment plans for them, which may include prescribing medicines.  A supplementary prescriber can prescribe medicines for assessed patients within the outlines of a patient-specific clinical management plan which has been created in agreement with an independent prescriber (doctor or dentist) and the patient/client.  The below table shows the Independent and/or Supplementary Prescriber professions.

Independent and Supplementary Prescribers

Supplementary Prescribers only







Therapeutic Radiographers

Diagnostic Radiographers




What are the benefits of Non-Medical Prescribing?

Non-Medical Prescribing has benefits for patients and healthcare organisations, as well as for the prescribing professional.  Extending prescribing responsibilities to healthcare professionals other than doctors allows patients to be treated more quickly, reduces unnecessary appointments and improves the patient experience.  In turn, this improves efficiency and the delivery of care for healthcare organisations such as the NHS.  For example, a Registered Nurse Independent/Supplementary Prescriber, working in a GP surgery, would be able to assess and diagnose a patient with a chest infection and prescribe antibiotic treatment, without having to refer the patient to a doctor. 

As well as benefitting the patient and increasing efficiency, Non-Medical Prescribing also benefits the healthcare professional.  This enhanced role provides an opportunity for healthcare professionals to develop their career, take on more responsibility and achieve higher pay.  Offering career development opportunities can also help healthcare management to retain valued staff while making better use of their skills.


What is Advanced Clinical Practice?

Advanced Clinical Practitioners are highly trained and experienced registered healthcare professionals.  They are educated to Masters degree level and demonstrate high levels of autonomy and decision making in the care of patients, as well as advanced clinical leadership skills. 

Advanced Clinical Practitioners are often Non-Medical Prescribers, enabling them to provide a holistic care experience for the patient.  They may come from a range of professionally registered healthcare backgrounds such as nursing, midwifery, and some allied health professions. 


What are the benefits of Advanced Clinical Practice?

Advanced Clinical Practitioners perform at the top of their regulatory licence, making the best use of their skills and expertise within their current scope of professional practice.  Advanced Clinical Practice is underpinned by four pillars; clinical practice, leadership and management, research, and education. 

Advanced Clinical Practitioners have advanced leadership skills and take on high levels of responsibility in caring for patients.  They undertake holistic patient care in their clinical setting, ranging from initial presentation, assessment and diagnosis of patients using patient-centred approaches, through to treatment options and evaluation.  This leads to increased patient satisfaction through continuity of care and reduced waiting times.

For healthcare organisations, Advanced Clinical Practice roles provide operational benefits and more flexible team working to help meet current and future workforce demands.  The advanced role provides a progression route which values the skills of experienced staff, creating clear career pathways to help retain healthcare professionals, who are themselves able to achieve a highly valued role within their organisation with high levels of autonomy, decision making and leadership.


Find out more

Read more about our flexible courses in Non-Medical Prescribing and Advanced Clinical Practice here:

You can also read about the first-hand experiences of our Postgraduate Certificate in Non-Medical Prescribing graduates, nurse Claire and paramedic Lyn.

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