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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Nurse drug prescribing extended
Prescribing powers are being extended
Nurses and pharmacists are to be given greater powers to prescribe drugs, in a move which ministers say will give patients quicker access to medicine.

Nearly 7,000 nurses who already prescribe under special arrangements will assume the right while others will have to be put forward by employers.

The changes which come into effect this week will give both professions access to all but the strongest drugs.

Doctors have relaxed opposition in the light of "stringent" safeguards.

For pharmacists, this is the dawn of a new era
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Keith Ridge

Prescribing powers have been gradually rolled out to nurses and pharmacists over recent years, but have so far been limited to drugs for minor injuries and palliative care.

The latest measures mean nurses and pharmacists will be able to prescribe treatments for more serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes - traditionally the domain of GPs.

Only controlled drugs, such as diamorphine, will be exempted.

The powers will only be open to the more experienced nurses and pharmacists, who will have to be nominated by their employers for the extra training.

However, the 6,500 nurses who have supplementary prescribing powers under current arrangements will be put forward for the extra responsibility automatically.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: "Nurse and pharmacist independent prescribing is a huge step forward in improving patient accessibility to medicines from highly skilled and well trained staff."

'Historic moment'

Matt Griffiths, prescribing spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing, said it was a historic moment.

"For years nurses and pharmacists have been doing back-door prescribing with a GP just signing off what they prescribed.

"This makes the system much more accountable. Patients need not worry that GPs are not doing it. There will be a thorough system of training.

"Nurses will not be prescribing outside their area of expertise."

And Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Keith Ridge added: "For pharmacists, this is the dawn of a new era. It will help transform the public's perception of pharmacy and the services they deliver to patients.

"It will be much easier for patients to get the medicines they need, when they need them."

The British Medical Association said it had relaxed its opposition because of the "stringent" lines of accountability and training being introduced by regulators.

Chairman Jim Johnson said: "The BMA believes that there is not a problem with nurses who prescribe under these strict criteria."

A patient comments on the proposal

Nurse prescribing plans opposed
10 Nov 05 |  Health
Prescribing shake-up planned
16 Apr 02 |  Health

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