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Conference attracts top national speakers

​Top UK speakers took part in a conference organised by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) for non-medical prescribers and advanced practitioners.

They included Professor David Nutt from Imperial College London, a former chairman of the Government’s drugs advisory board, and Clare Sutherland, a senior professional advisor for NHS Improvement who has played a key role in the national development of advanced practice.

In addition, Dr David Barton, a former chair of the national Association of Advanced Practice Educators, spoke about the evolution of non-medical prescriber and advanced practitioner roles at the “Non-Medical Prescribing and Advanced Practice Conference”, which took place yesterday at Dunston Hall, near Norwich.

Stuart Maddock, a non-medical prescriber for NSFT, who is based at Hospital Road, Bury St Edmunds, was one of the organisers.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “We’re very pleased with how it went – there was a fantastic and palpable buzz at Dunston Hall!

“The day was about maintaining and developing competencies, increasing knowledge and providing an opportunity for networking so that we can continue to provide safe, high-quality, effective patient care together.

“We managed to get some top national speakers and the conference was attended by about 150 people, consisting of non-medical prescribers – who these days are being increasingly referred to as ‘independent prescribers’ to emphasise the autonomy of their role and practice – advanced practitioners and trainee advanced practitioners.

“Professor Nutt is a larger than life personality who took pleasure in answering questions from practitioners, and the quality from all the presenters was outstanding. There has been extremely positive feedback.

“As well as from our Trust, we had 29 people from a total of six other trusts in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex. It was inspiring to see acute and mental health trusts networking and learning together, taking such interest in the overlap of services and their work.”

Mr Maddock added that there were also important updates on how the Trust can manage governance of advanced practice – roles which see practitioners working at an advanced level across a broad range of conditions and areas of practice.

The six other Trusts who sent staff to the conference were the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust.

Currently, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, physiotherapists, chiropodists or podiatrists, radiographers, community practitioners and paramedics may undertake further professional training to qualify as non-medical prescribers.

Non-medical prescribing roles have been in the UK since 1992 and were introduced by the Department of Health to increase access to medications for people who would otherwise have to wait to see a doctor. One of its aims is to free up doctors so they can concentrate on patients with the most complex needs.

The number of non-medical prescribers at NSFT is rising and currently stands at almost 50. They work in many services, such as specialist clinics for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), memory assessment and treatment clinics for service users with dementia, and substance misuse, as well as in crisis, community and inpatient services.

Mr Maddock said: “Non-medical prescribing at NSFT is well supported by our director of nursing, Dawn Collins, and there are some very established roles at the Trust that are key to meeting the demands of heavy workloads placed on teams.

“The organisation has taken a position to embrace non-medical prescribing more than other trusts, and the number of non-medical prescribers is increasing.

“The Trust also supports a pathway to develop staff to become advanced practitioners. These roles are vital to ensuring the future workforce is fit for purpose and to provide continued development opportunities for experienced staff.

“They provide a vital part in high quality care, service development, research, education and leadership, which is complementary to their professional colleagues.”

Yesterday’s conference was opened by Mrs Collins, the Trust’s Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Safety.

NSFT staff who want to qualify as non-medical prescribers or advanced practitioners follow training courses provided by either the University of East Anglia or the University of Suffolk. It takes between six months and three years to qualify, depending on the qualification.

Professor David Nutt gave a talk called “Antipsychotics and Addiction”.

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