Up to 20,000 nurses and midwives and 1,500 pharmacists will now be able to prescribe controlled drugs, including morphine, diamorphine and prescription-strength co-codamol.
Independent prescribers will also be able to mix a controlled drug with another medicine for patients who need drugs intravenously.
They will also be able to supply or administer morphine and diamorphine under patient group directions, for urgent treatment of sick or critically injured groups of patients.
Chief nursing officer for England, Professor Dame Chris Beasley, said the changes would ‘help deliver faster and more effective care, making it easier for patients to get the medicines they need, without compromising safety’.
She added: ‘Enabling appropriately qualified nurses and pharmacists to prescribe and mix those controlled drugs they are competent to use, for example in palliative care, completes the changes made over recent years to ensure we make the best use of these highly trained professionals’ skills, for the benefit of patients.’
Former Royal College of Nursing prescribing adviser Professor Matt Griffiths said the new regulations represented a ‘historic’ change for nursing.
‘Nurses have been safely prescribing these medicines for a number of years, in fact before we reached the public consultation more than 1 million controlled drug prescriptions had been prescribed by nurse prescribers,’ he said. ‘It’s the legal mechanism that has been frustrating here for both nurses and their patients.’
‘The formal process of supplementary prescribing many of these medicines to date has meant delays to patients receiving the medicines and therefore in some cases extended periods or pain,’ he added. ‘This legislation will support us in ensuring our patients receive the best care.’