Nursing Council chief executive Carolyn Reed said the regulations, which open up registered nurse (RN) prescribing to suitably qualified RNs beyond just nurse practitioners (NPs) and diabetes nurse specialists, were signed by the Governor General on 20 June on the advice of Cabinet and the Minister of Health.
Reed said the passing of the regulations was a “source of great excitement to the Council and we hope it makes a big difference to patients”.
Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said he welcomed the new regulations, which fit with the government’s approach to improving access to health care and to making the best use of the health workforce. He also added that patient safety remains a top priority.
The regulations allow suitably qualified registered nurses (RNs) who meet Nursing Council prescribing standards to prescribe from a limited list of commonly used medicines (see also prescribing article published in the June edition of Nursing Review for more details on training and qualification requirements).
Coleman said NPs have been prescribing for the past 14 years and for the past five years approved diabetes clinical nurse specialists had been prescribing under the same designated prescriber provision of the Medicines Act 1981 that was now being extended to approved registered nurses.
“Designated RN prescribers will, from mid-September, be able to prescribe a number of commonly used medicines and also provide continuation prescriptions for some medicines started by nurse practitioners or doctors,” said Coleman. “The changes have the potential to reduce double handling and improve access to medicines, particularly for people living in rural or remote regions.”
He added that the Nursing Council had “listened and responded to health groups’ concerns about ensuring patient safety by strengthening the educational requirements on prescribing nurses and revising the list of eligible medicines able to be prescribed”.
“We know from the emerging evidence from other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, that registered nurse prescribing is increasingly seen as safe, acceptable to consumers and improves access to medicines.”
Reed said the Council expected to announce before the end of the month the assessment process for nurses who may already meet the education and prescribing practicum requirements to become RN prescribers. “We can be ready to go if there are nurses who are ready to go (on 20 September).” It had also been working to inform pharmacists of the upcoming changes and preparing information to share with the public about RN prescribing via the Council’s website.
A further final step is for Pharmac to consult on extending medicine subsidies to the patients of RN prescribers as they currently are for NPs and approved diabetes nurse specialists.
“It [RN prescribing] has got government support so it is highly unlikely that that won’t occur,” said Reed.