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Another boost for rural health

Hon Damien O’Connor
Minister for Rural Affairs
Associate Minister of Health

13 September 2005 Media Statement

Another boost for rural health

New prescribing rights for nurse practitioners will directly benefit rural communities, says Associate Health and Rural Affairs Minister Damien O'Connor.

"Particularly in areas affected by GP shortages, the extension of prescribing rights means nurse practitioners who've met certain requirements will be able to fulfil a very important role that could once only be carried out by doctors.

"Nurse practitioners are already making a huge difference in rural communities through the delivery of essential services; yesterday's announcement widens the scope of that work. People in all corners of the country will now be able to get essential care more readily.

"It will provide a major boost to this government's Primary Health Care strategy."

Mr O'Connor said the extension of prescribing rights built on government initiatives already in place to train and recruit rural nurse practitioners. Each year, the Ministry of Health funded up to eight primary health nurse practitioner scholarships; ACC was also funding six this year.

"The scholarships allow clinical nurse specialists in rural practice to take a year off to complete all the necessary study to bring their qualifications up to nurse practitioner level," Mr O'Connor said.

"But until now, the prescribing rights of the practitioners have been limited - only those practicing in aged care and child family heath could get prescribing rights. The new prescribing rights more clearly recognize the extensive range of practitioners' competencies."

Mr O'Connor said he hoped the changes would encourage more nurses to opt for rural practice. "There's a real need for nurse practitioners in rural areas, particularly with prescribing rights. I look forward to the changes having a positive impact on the rural workforce."

He thanked doctors for their support of the changes. "This is a big step in New Zealand medicine and it couldn't have been made without the support of the GP Council."


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