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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
Nurses 'frustrated' at prescribing limits
Nurse prescribing rights are to be expanded
Nurse prescribing rights are to be expanded
Nurses are to be able to prescribe an extended range of medicines to patients.

But nurses' leaders say they are "frustrated" at the limitations of the expanded scheme.

The government said the move should mean patients can get treatment more quickly, and could cut doctor's workload.

Ten million pounds is to be invested in the scheme over the next three years.


Nurses are frustrated that they can only prescribe from a limited range of drugs

Mark Jones,
Royal College of Nursing
The Department of Health said around 10,000 nurses would be trained in prescribing by 2004, with the first completing their training by next spring.

Under new rules, they will be able to prescribe for conditions including burns, hayfever and ear infections.

They will also be able to promote healthy lifestyles in ways such as providing vitamins for pregnant women.

In addition, the 20,000 district nurses, health visitors and practice nurses already trained under the existing rules, will now also be able to write prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy, giving patients patches, gum and inhalers.

The 10,000 extra nurses announced on Friday will be in addition to the existing 20,000.

'Right direction'

The Royal College of Nursing said the announcement was a "step in the right direction".

But Mark Jones, RCN advisor in primary care, said: "Nurses are frustrated that they can only prescribe from a limited range of drugs.

Nurses new prescribing rights
Minor injuries - ie cuts and burns
Minor ailments - ie hayfever and ear infections
Promote healthier lifestyles
Palliative care
"The government has missed the opportunity to ensure that patients get the full advantages that follow if nurses with specialist training and expert knowledge could prescribe from a range of medicines."

He welcomed the fact that nurses dealing with minor injuries, working in walk-in centres and palliative care would have new prescribing opportunities.

"Many patients with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and coronary heart disease will be able to have their care managed and medicines prescribed by their specialist nurse."

The government said these kind of conditions accounted for 30% of GP consultations, and that it could also reduce hospital doctors' workloads.

Health minister Lord Hunt said: "This is a crucial step forward in our efforts to give patients better and quicker access to the medicines they need.

"It will also make better use of nurses' skills and free up doctors' time allowing them to deal with more serious cases."

There are also plans to look at "supplementary" prescribing by nurses after the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill becomes law.

Nurses would then be able to treat patients with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and mental health.

Training

Talks are underway with professional bodies to set up training programmes by the end of this year.

Last March, the government announced the expansion of nurse-prescribing powers.

The move was aimed at breaking down the barriers between nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.

It followed the Crown Review of the prescribing, supply and administration of medicines, chaired by Dame June Crown.

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See also:

22 Nov 99 | Health
Nurses' role set to expand
21 Jan 99 | Health
Nurses want larger role
05 Apr 00 | Health
Nurses' powers to be increased
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