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The BBC's Peter Gould reports
"Encourage more efficient team work"
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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 08:36 GMT
Nurses get new prescription powers
The government want to promote more flexible team-working
New powers which will allow nurses to prescribe certain drugs without a doctor's approval were announced by the government on Monday.

The move is aimed at speeding up treatment of people suffering from chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes, and those with minor injuries.

It also further breaks down the rigid barriers between nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The move has been widely expected since the publication of a report recommending the change last year.

Nurse-prescribing pilot schemes have been up and running in some parts of the country already.

And nurse-led asthma and diabetes clinics are commonplace.

The changes would mean that many repeat prescriptions, or prescriptions for a certain range of common medications could be signed by a nurse instead of a doctor.

Health Minister Lord Hunt said the move would promote more flexible team working within the health service.

He said: "A specialist asthma nurse treating a boy with asthma can give him a lung check-up and advise on his exercise and diet, but at present cannot write a prescription for an inhaler."

"Extending the scope of prescribing by nurses will free up doctors' time, allowing them to deal with more serious cases," he added.

I have no doubt that the changes that are being introduced will improve our care of patients

Dr June Crown
The changes are likely to happen first in accident and emergency departments and NHS walk-in centres, Lord Hunt added.

Prescribing is currently limited to district nurses and health visitors, working from a limited list of medicines including laxatives and pain killers.

'Revolution in NHS'

Last November Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced the setting up of a new training centre to teach the NHS's 250,000 nurses how to take on more clinical responsibilities.

Mr Milburn said he wanted to develop an NHS which offered people faster treatment by "revolutionising the heart of the NHS".

The latest changes follow the recommendations of the Review of Prescribing, Supply and Administration of Medicines, chaired by Dr June Crown.

She said: "I am delighted that the government has decided to take forward the recommendations of the review.

"I have no doubt that the changes that are being introduced will improve our care of patients, make much better use of the skills and professionalism of staff and encourage more effective teamwork."

The government will also consider further recommendations made by the review.

It will look at allowing "supplementary" prescribing by pharmacists, physiotherapists, chiropodists and in cases where repeat prescriptions are commonplace.

This supplementary prescribing may also be stepped up to full "independent" prescribing.

If nurses or pharmacists make mistakes, they can be disciplined by their profession's governing body in the same way as doctors.

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See also:

19 Nov 99 | Health
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21 Jan 99 | Health
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