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Nurses consulting on prescribing rights

Media release 28 February 2013

Nurses consulting on prescribing rights

Proposals to allow appropriately qualified registered nurses to prescribe are designed to make it easier for patients to obtain the medicines they need.

The proposals, which build on the success of a diabetes nurse prescribing project in 2011, would allow more registered nurses to prescribe in certain situations and the Nursing Council is seeking feedback on the proposals.

Nursing Council chief executive Carolyn Reed says the health system is straining to meet the needs of people in rural locations, some vulnerable groups and the increasing numbers of people with lifestyle and chronic diseases. She says nurses could make a real contribution towards meeting these needs.

“We have seen studies over the years recommend more nurse-led clinics as a means of meeting needs, particularly where there is a shortage of doctors. Nurses already have a significant role in health promotion, disease prevention and in the assessment and treatment of minor ailments and illnesses. Enabling nurses to prescribe would enhance the services they can deliver,” Ms Reed says.

“The diabetes nurse prescribing project found that doctors welcomed the expanded role of nurses. Having nurses look after routine prescription needs and patient management left doctors able to focus on more complex and acute cases and needs. Patients also were happy.

“Nurse prescribing is a significant and historic advance in the evolution of nursing practice but more significantly it is about delivering benefits to all New Zealanders in terms of improving access to timely and convenient health services and medicines,” Ms Reed says.

In developing its proposals the Council worked closely with the Ministry of Health and consulted widely across the nursing and health sector. As a result of that preliminary round of consultation, the Council is now seeking comment on the introduction of two levels of nurse prescribing. The first - community nurse prescribing - would enable nurses in community and outpatient settings, who have completed a course in community nurse prescribing, to prescribe a limited number of medicines for minor ailments and illnesses.

The second - specialist nurse prescribing, would enable nurses with a post-graduate diploma in specialist nurse prescribing who work in a collaborative multi-disciplinary team in specialty services or in general practice, to prescribe for common conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension.

The Council’s consultation document outlines in details the qualifications, standards and competencies nurses would require. It also seeks views on the medicines nurses should be able to prescribe.

Ms Reed says nurses are the largest part of the health workforce and it makes sense to utilise their skills and knowledge to improve access to health care services and medicines.

Non medical prescribing has increased over the past 15 years. Dentists, optometrists, midwives and nurse practitioners (higher level nurses with Masters Degrees) all have prescribing rights. Pharmacists and dieticians, along with registered nurses, are also applying to become designated prescribers under the Medicines Act.

The consultation document and questionnaire can be found at:,283,html/Consultation-on-registered-nurse-prescribing


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