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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Prescribing shake-up planned
Nurses
Prescribing nurses will number over 30,000 by 2004
Plans to give nurses and pharmacists new powers to prescribe medicines have been unveiled by the government.

The aim of the supplementary prescribing scheme is to ensure that patients can get quicker access to medications without having to see their doctor.


Extending prescribing responsibilities to pharmacists and nurses will make getting the right medicine more convenient than ever before

Lord Hunt
Under the proposals pharmacists and nurses would be able to write prescriptions for treatments for long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

The scheme would also cover hormone replacement therapy and anti-coagulation treatment.

It will mean that, after diagnosis, patients may no longer need to re-visit their doctors for prescriptions.

Instead, patients would be able to get medicines prescribed by a pharmacist or nurse, with agreement from a doctor.

Easier access

Health Minister Lord Hunt said: "Our proposals will enable pharmacists and nurses, working in partnership with doctors, to help more patients and treat more conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.

"Millions of people suffer from these conditions across England. Extending prescribing responsibilities to pharmacists and nurses in GP surgeries, hospitals and the community will make getting the right medicine easier and more convenient than ever before."

Lord Hunt described pharmacists as an untapped resource for the NHS.

"There are around 20,000 pharmacists practising in the community and in hospitals in England and by harnessing their skills we can deliver rapid access to medicines and improved patient care."

Asthma nurse

Sarah Mullally, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said that currently a specialist asthma nurse treating a child can check their lung function and advise on ways to reduce attacks - but cannot write a prescription for an inhaler.

She said: "Supplementary prescribing will change this and ensure that where, for example, it is a specialist nurse who carries out regular reviews of a patient's condition, the nurse can also prescribe medicines for that condition for the patient."

Mark Jones, of the Royal College of Nursing, said the scheme was a positive first step.

But he said there was no reason why nurse prescribing had to be introduced in a piecemeal fashion as nurses were more than capable of providing patients with appropriate medications.

Philip Green, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, told BBC News Online, he welcomed the plans.

He said: "We are confident that this will make a significant contribution to the modernisation of care in the NHS."

Doctors will have discretion over what medicines they allow nurses and pharmacists to prescribe. For each patient, a clinical management plan will be drawn up detailing the prescribing role of the nurse or pharmacist.

The proposals will go out to public consultation. It is envisaged that they will come into force next year.

Ministers have already introduced new powers for specially trained nurses to prescribe treatments for minor injuries and ailments. The new proposals are complementary to this scheme.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | Health
Nurse prescribing role expands
28 Feb 02 | Health
Surgery balance of power shifts
13 Apr 00 | Health
Patients 'prefer nurses'
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