GPC warning over nurse prescribing freedom

Call for continued professional development as parliament considers lifting restrictions on nurse prescribers.

Plans to remove all restrictions on prescribing by nurses and pharmacists could see nurses used as a 'cheaper alternative to doctors', the GPC has warned.

Nurse independent prescribers can currently prescribe 12 controlled drugs for specified medical conditions.

But plans to give them more freedom are working their way through parliament, and could be agreed as early as next month.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said that doctors' support for the plan would depend on 'which nurses prescribe which drugs'.

'The key thing is that nurses work within their competency and that they do not feel pressured into prescribing outside their experience or training,' he said.

'We would be concerned if the NHS began employing nurses as a cheaper alternative to doctors, and expected them to prescribe from the full range of medicines. It would put nurses in a very difficult situation.'

Prescribing experts have warned that the training available for nurses is patchy and must be improved if safety is to be maintained.

Matt Griffiths, a prescribing adviser at the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), said: 'Getting the (prescribing) qualification is fantastic, but nurses need continuing professional development in order to develop their skills.

'It is piecemeal at present and this will restrict the amount of prescribing done. If nurses lack confidence they will not prescribe.'

The plan involves amendments to two bills, the Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997, and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

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