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New prescribers' law welcome first step for nurses

6 October 1999

New prescribers' law welcome first step for nurses

THE new Medicines Amendment Act offers a great opportunity for nurses to start gearing up to prescibe medicines safely and effectively, the Ministry of Health says.

It sets the scene for nurse prescribing, Chief Nursing Adviser Frances Hughes says, and nurses are looking forward to being able to start prescribing - likely to happen by 2001.

Mrs Hughes says the Act, while the culmination of lots of hard work, is only the beginning for nurses and other health professionals wanting to extend the breadth of services they are able to offer their patients.

"It gives us a framework for determining how and what we will be able to prescribe. Now we have to flesh out that framework, looking at competency requirements, monitoring, review and all the other considerations we need to take into account to ensure that what we do for our patients is safe and effective," she said.

Many of those details would be collated in a discussion document expected early next year Mrs Hughes said. It will offer the opportunity for doctors, pharmacists and other interested parties to have their say on how to ensure best practice is reflected in regulations - which will then need Cabinet approval.

She said appropriate education and training for new prescribers was paramount. "This is fundamental for any professional wanting to change the way they work. It is a large part of what we are looking at in a working group convened by the Nursing Council earlier this year."

This, and other work already in train looking at the requirements for nurses prescribing for child and family health and aged care, gives nurses a head start, Mrs Hughes said, but it was important to realise that the legislation was intended to offer opportunities for health professionals other than nurses to gain prescribing rights as well.

"Just as it's a first step for us so it is for others for whom it may be appropriate to prescribe. And just like us they will need to look at the sorts of training, education, types of medicines and so on that are appropriate"

Allowing nurses to prescribe some medicines is one of many changes in prospect. A Nursing Taskforce set up to look at the barriers preventing nurses from being fully effective in their work recommended a series of other changes.

"We have a lot to offer New Zealanders and continually top the polls as most respected profession. I welcome the opportunity this gives us to become even more effective allies in the fight to improve our health status," Mrs Hughes said.

ENDS

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