Legislation has come into effect giving independent nurse prescribers the power to prescribe controlled drugs in schedules two to five.
As a result, up to 20,000 nurses and midwives who have qualified as independent prescribers can prescribe controlled drugs like morphine, diamorphine and prescription-strength co-codamol, following.
They will be able to mix a controlled drug with another medicine for patients who need drugs intravenously.
In addition, nurses will be able to administer morphine and diamorphine under “patient group directions” for urgent treatment of large numbers of critically ill people, for example, in the wake of a major catastrophe.
The changes to Misuse of Drugs Regulations, which came into force on 23 April, mean appropriately qualified nurses and pharmacists now have the same prescribing rights as doctors.
Most prescriptions will help treat pain in patients in accident and emergency departments or those nearing the end of life, who will no longer have to wait for doctors to sign prescriptions. But the changes also mean nurses can prescribe controlled drugs in community clinics for patients with long-term conditions like arthritis.
Chief nursing officer for England Dame Chris Beasley said: “These changes will help deliver faster and more effective care, making it easier for patients to get the medicines they need, without compromising safety.
“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.”