Nursing associates will not legally be able to give drugs under agreements, known as patient group directions (PGDs), that allow staff to administer medicines to patients without a prescription, senior nurses have stressed as they released guidance for the new role.
However, they told Nursing Times that employers and NHS England were expected to draw up proposals for a change in the law in the future, mainly due to interest in the idea from GP practices.
“This guidance puts some assurance out there that nursing associates will not yet be able to administer under a PGD”
Senior nurses at Health Education England, who yesterday released new guidance about how nursing associates will be involved in administering drugs, said they wanted to clarify the use of PGDs, as part of “safety checks” for the new role.
They suggested that it was not widely understood that only certain healthcare professionals were able to operate under PGDs, which are written instructions that allow staff to supply or administer medication to certain groups of patients without necessarily referring back to a doctor for an individual prescription.
They must be agreed and signed by a senior doctor and pharmacist and include detailed information such as the name of the healthcare professional allowed to give the drug, the clinical criteria for which the PGD can be used, and the class, dosage and strength of the medicine.
Nursing associates are not currently on the list of professions lawfully able to administer medicines under a PGD, but they will become eligible for consideration once they are regulated, states HEE’s new guidance, which was drawn up by a group of nursing experts.
After nursing associates are regulated, NHS England will be able to put forward proposals to request a public consultation from the government on the possibility of nursing associates administering drugs under a PGD, it adds.
“This was definitely one of our safety checks because…not everyone understands that you do need to be on this list of professions”
As part of a number of recommendations published in yesterday’s guidance, HEE said it intended to work with employers and NHS England to develop the proposals.
Employers had reported it would be useful for associates to use PGDs in certain situations – such as giving immunisations as part of a national programme or using a saline flush following the insertion of a cannula, said HEE.
Speaking to Nursing Times ahead of the guidance being released, HEE’s senior nursing policy manager Sam Donohue said it was important employers had policies that made it clear associates were not yet able to be included within PGDs.
“This was definitely one of our safety checks because, when you hear people talking about roles, not everyone understands that you do need to be on this list of professions that are allowed to administer under a PGD,” she said.
“This guidance puts some assurance out there that nursing associates will not yet be able to administer under a PGD, therefore people need to be aware of that and local policies need to reflect that so that everyone understands that is not a legal entitlement yet,” she said.
“What we are hearing from providers – especially in general practice – who often use PGDs routinely is that it would be advantageous,” she added.
However, HEE chief nurse Lisa Bayliss-Pratt noted “a whole raft of work” would be required to bring in the change. “As the role is expanded, that is something we would help try and sort when, and if it is possible, to do so,” she added.