Nurses and pharmacists in the UK could be given more powers to prescribe medicines under plans being considered by the government.
Pharmacist powers could increase under plans being considered
A range of options on prescribing have been put forward by ministers in a bid to ease the pressure on GPs.
Pharmacists could receive extra training to prescribe medicines for illnesses from acne to tonsillitis.
Nurse involvement in the care of people with long-term illness such as asthma and diabetes may also increase.
More than 28,000 district nurses are already allowed to prescribe from a list of 180 products, and pharmacists were given the power to prescribe medicines in partnership with doctors in 2003.
But the Department of Health, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, will be consulting over the next three months on how this should be expanded.
Five options are being considered for nurses from allowing prescriptions for any medical condition to giving some nurses more powers than others.
There are seven options for pharmacists, ranging from a limited increase in powers to prescribing for any medical condition.
Health Secretary John Reid said he wanted to change the prescribing system to give patients more choice "about where, and from whom" they can get prescriptions.
"Under our proposals, patients will benefit from an increased number of highly trained health professionals.
"Increased prescribing by nurses and pharmacists also frees up doctors to deal with more serious conditions, allowing more patients to be treated more quickly."
Chief Nursing Officer Chris Beasley said patients could be assured they would be receiving the best possible care as nurses underwent "thorough training" before being allowed to prescribe.
Dr Jim Kennedy, prescribing spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, said giving pharmacists and nurses more prescribing powers was a sensible move.
But he added: "As more powers are given we need to monitor professionals who are prescribing.
"We must also make sure we do not alter the status quo whereby the people prescribing and people supplying differ so there is no question of someone benefiting financially."
And he also said nurses and pharmacists could be susceptible to pharmaceutical companies' marketing strategies which did not always give the "full picture".