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Government denies putting patients at risk in prescription row

23 August 2007

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The Department of Health has denied that a rise in the number of prescriptions issued by nurses is compromising patient safety.

Research by the magazine Pulse claims prescription rates by “independent nurse prescribers” rose 49% in a year.

Jo Haynes, editor of Pulse, said: “Nurse prescribers now in theory get access to almost exactly the same set of drugs as doctors do, but with the proviso that nurses are supposed to limit themselves only to those drugs they feel competent to prescribe.

“I’m sure most will do just that, but it seems incredible that it has been left to individual nurses to assess and police their own competence.”

But a spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Patient safety is our priority.

“That’s why nurse prescribers are senior, experienced nurses who have undergone rigorous training before being able to prescribe – they have to successfully complete the relevant courses, be accredited by their respective regulatory bodies and had their qualifications noted on the professional register.

“Once trained, they are required to keep their skills up to date.

“This ensures that patient safety is protected and that patients can be confident that they are receiving the highest standards of care.

“GPs still account for 99% of the overall number of items prescribed, but by expanding traditional professional roles, the NHS can give patients easier access to medicines.”

Copyright © PA Business 2007


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“It is interesting to see the nursing profession under pressure for endeavouring to push their job description into the area traditionally occupied by trained doctors, particularly as it appears they are the subject of exactly the same argument that they use to prevent HCAs moving into such tasks as flu immunisations. Professions are always being eroded at the edges and even more so in times of financial pressure – and let’s be clear about that, there IS a huge financial pressure in the NHS for purely political reasons. I don’t doubt that some nurses are better at their prescribing role than some doctors and there are HCAs who are better at nursing than registered nurses but the main concern here should be the patients. If patient service is improved and those delivering it are properly trained then there should be no heed paid to job-protectionism. If there was, then us managers should be making an issue about the nurses taking over all the management roles in all our PCTs – and that is entirely another topic for feedback” – Alan Moore, Group Manager, Ellesmere Port