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Faster action needed for non-medical prescribers

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Following an announcement by Patricia Hewitt in November 2005, nurses who had successfully completed the then Extended Formulary Prescribing training and who were registered by the NMC to prescribe, were able to independently prescribe any medicine for any medical condition from the BNF providing that in doing so was within their clinical competence.

The exception to this rule were unlicensed medicines and some controlled drugs.

There has been huge debate around this advance in our nursing practice. The result has been that many NHS organisations have still not allowed trained and registered nurse independent prescribers to fully use their qualification.

I was speaking at the Association for Nurse Prescribing conference on 12 June in Manchester and met a palliative care nurse who has still not been allowed to prescribe any of the 13 controlled drugs which were on the now obsolete Extended Formulary.

This nurse very sensibly has taken the initiative to gather evidence of where being unable to prescribe CD’s for her patients, has made a negative impact either on the patient, the practitioner or the organisation. She then presented her findings to the Professional Executive Committee (PEC).

It seems that this is finally bringing her closer to being able to carry out her new prescribing role. It will have taken around a year for the trust to permit this palliative care nurse to carry out the role she has trained for and is professionally and clinically capable of doing. Of course NHS Trusts must look carefully at ensuring they have the necessary diverse and sometimes complex infrastructure including most importantly a clear clinical governance framework to support the development of Non-Medical Prescribing.

A sound knowledge of what is required is crucial. What is needed is faster action by those leading on Non-Medical Prescribing to ensure the Trust is ready for their nurses to use their prescribing ability to its fullest extent, immediately following qualification and registration with the NMC.

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