At a Glance: DoH nurse prescriber training guidelines

What’s going on? The Department of Health (DoH) has given guidelines to Strategic Health Authorities on how many nurse prescribers it expects to be trained in each region.

More control-freakery from central government?

Not really. There is an element of freedom in that individual regions decide which nurses are to be trained and the numbers are based on expectations rather than firm requirements. It’s all part of the drive to increase the numbers of nurses qualified to prescribe.

Why should healthcare PROs be interested?

Nurses are an important target group for everyone in the healthcare sector as their influence increases. As nurses become more important as prescribers in their own right, there are opportunities for education as well as promotion of products.

What is the Government’s view?

In a line: ‘Non-medical prescribing moves into the mainstream.’ There is already a variety of medicines on the list which qualified nurses can give to patients for conditions from asthma to animal bites, and the Government wants nurse prescribing expanded to include emergency care this year. Last November, health secretary John Reid said: ‘I want to encourage a new generation of entrepreneurial nurses. Being an entrepreneur means being prepared to take some risks.’

Is risk-taking the sort of phrase he should be using?

Fair point. Dr Reid meant nurses should be able to ‘take the initiative, creating and implementing new ideas’, rather than taking short-cuts.

But why train nurse prescribers?

To get rid of anomalies such as the specialist asthma nurse who can advise on ways to reduce attacks but can’t write a prescription for an inhaler. The Health and Social Care Act 2001 paved the way for new groups such as nurses and pharmacists to become prescribers.

How many nurses are we talking about?

The Government has stumped up £10m to train 10,000 nurses by 2005.

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