More debate on prescribing rights

Alison Clarke, Chair of the British Psychological Society's Practice Board, responds.

I wanted to add my thoughts to the letter from Rebecca Courtney-Walker in the February issue. I am well aware of the prescribing rights work as the project is established under the aegis of the Practice Board.

The Task and Finish Group for Prescribing Rights, the Practice Board and the Society recognise that this is an issue not to be taken lightly. I believe the nature and quality of the comments on the discussion paper that were addressed to me as Chair of the Practice Board raise questions not only about what we do in practice but also about who we are, both as practitioners and as human beings. While, thanks to the Prescribing Rights Task and Finish Group, we have already embarked on the debate about what we do, it also suggests the need for a wider debate about the future shape of our profession and what our trajectory towards that future may look like.

I am concerned that our valued members who are most opposed to prescribing are not actively involved in this stage of the debate and as Chair of the Practice Board, I am asking them to step into what may be an uncomfortable conversation for them so that we all may benefit from having their views playing their part in shaping this debate. If the profession were to take up prescribing rights, it would be the Society that would set the standards against which all work in that area would be measured so it is critically important that all shades of opinion are reflected in the shape of what we may finally decide upon.

Although I personally will never be a prescriber because it is outside my realm of practice, I have attended two meetings, months apart, where the issue was debated. It was interesting for me to note that in each room the balance of opinion shifted when our members listened to the opening statements of the debaters and engaged in the debate themselves. As Chair of the Practice Board I will want to ensure that the debate on this subject brings us to both a sufficiently well informed best practice decision about psychologists prescribing and enables us to articulate a valuable agreed definition of who we are and what we bring to the world.

The work that has been done thus far has been to help us better understand the implications that a decision taken around this question may have for our members and the standards we set for best practice before we, as a Society, could consider ourselves ready to answer the question put by the NHSE as to whether or not the profession of psychology would like to take on the responsibility of taking up prescribing rights.

I am clear that this topic will become an important matter at Practice Board in the months and years to come. You may rest assured that as Chair I will facilitate the widest and best informed debate amongst all of our membership of all shades of opinion where the why and why not is as significant to the debate as the how.

I look forward to seeing the continued constructive engagement of our members and relevant stakeholders in this active debate.

Alison Clarke
Chair, Practice Board

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber


I'm currently work in a peadiatric ward within a clinical setting. I find it slightly concerning that there would be a cross over from psycholgist to medical professional. I strongly feel that any use of drugs to counteract pyschological issues should be prescribed by someone who has had sufficent training and experience in medications. Psychologists offer alternative treatments without the use of pharmacutical drugs to combat psychologiacl problems which i feel far benefit patients. Dependancy on any pharmacutical drug is always a risk and i feel that if psychologists were able to prescribe these it would deter patients from alternative (none medicated) options.