About this guidance
In ‘Good medical practice’ (2024)1 we say:
12. You must keep up to date with, and follow, the law, our guidance and other regulations relevant to your work.
14. You must recognise and work within the limits of your competence.
16. In providing clinical care you must:
a. prescribe medicine or treatment, including repeat prescriptions, only when you have adequate knowledge of the patient’s health, and are satisfied that the medicine or treatment serve the patient’s needs
b. provide effective treatments based on the best available evidence
f. check that the care or treatment you provide for each patient is compatible with any other treatments the patient is receiving, including where possible self-prescribed over-the-counter medications.
18. You must make good use of the resources available to you.
19. Documents you make to formally record your work, including clinical records, must be clear, accurate and legible. You should make records at the same time as the events you are recording or as soon as possible afterwards.
21. Clinical records should include:
a. relevant clinical findings
b. the decisions made and actions agreed, and who is making the decisions and agreeing the actions
c. the information given to patients
d. any drugs prescribed or other investigation or treatment
e. who is making the record and when.
This guidance, which forms part of the professional standards, gives more detailed advice on how to comply with these principles when prescribing and managing medicines and medical devices. The guidance applies to all prescribing in whatever setting your interaction takes place, including remote consultations.
You are responsible for the prescriptions you sign. You are also accountable for your decisions and actions when supplying or administering medicines and devices, and when authorising or instructing others to do so.
‘Prescribing’ is used to describe many related activities, including:
- supplying prescription-only medicines
- prescribing medicines, devices, dressings and activities, such as exercise
- advising patients on the purchase of over the counter medicines and other remedies.
It may also be used to describe any written information (information prescriptions) or advice you give to patients. While some of this guidance is particularly relevant to prescription-only medicines, you should follow it in relation to the other activities you undertake, so far as it is relevant and applicable.
Prescribing happens in a range of contexts, including face to face and remotely using telephone, online and video-link or other technological platforms. If you can’t meet the standards set out in this guidance through the mode of consultation you are using, you should offer an alternative if possible, or signpost to other services. If you think that systems, policies or procedures are, or may be, placing patients at risk of harm, you must follow the guidance in ‘Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety’.2
The professional standards describe good practice, and not every departure from them will be considered serious. You must use your professional judgement to apply the standards to your day-to-day practice. If you do this, act in good faith and in the interests of patients, you will be able to explain and justify your decisions and actions. We say more about professional judgement, and how the professional standards relate to our fitness to practise processes, appraisal and revalidation , at the beginning of Good medical practice.