Registered nurse prescribing in primary health and specialty teams to be introduced in September 2016

04 August 2016

A regulation to allow suitably qualified registered nurses, working in collaborative teams, to write prescriptions for people with common and long-term conditions comes into effect on 20 September 2016.

To be authorised by the Nursing Council to prescribe, nurses will have had to complete a postgraduate diploma in prescribing which includes a period of practising under the supervision of an experienced prescriber.  People will be able to check on the Register of Nurses on the Council website to see if a nurse is authorised to prescribe.

Nurses who prescribe will be working in collaborative teams within primary health care and specialty services including general practice, outpatient clinics, family planning, sexual health, public health, district and home care, and rural and remote areas. It is important that they work in a team with a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner they can seek advice on diagnosis or treatment if the patient’s health concerns are more complex than they can manage.

The specific conditions they will be able to prescribe for include diabetes and related conditions, hypertension, respiratory diseases including asthma and COPD, anxiety, depression, heart failure, gout, palliative care, contraception, common skin conditions and infections. They are only able to prescribe from a restricted list of medicines.

Nurses working in these areas are already regularly involved in medicines management and education of patients. Registered nurses working in diabetes care have been able to prescribe for five years. This has been found to be safe and has been well-received by patients and by medical practitioners who have appreciated being freed up to work with more complex cases.

The expansion of prescribing builds on the success of Registered nurse prescribing in diabetes health and has been developed following a consultation completed by the Nursing Council in 2013. Overseas experience in the UK and Ireland also shows that nurse prescribing is safe and acceptable to consumers. The evidence also indicates that nurses are conservative prescribers and tend to prescribe in line with recommended best practice.

Registered nurse prescribing is designed to improve patient access to health care and medicines and to meet the demand of growing numbers of New Zealanders with lifestyle and chronic health conditions such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes. It is also expected to:

  • improve patient care without compromising patient safety
  • make it easier for patients to obtain the medicines they need
  • increase patient choice in accessing medicines
  • make better use of the skills of health professionals
  • improve access for those groups who find it difficult to access services currently including those with lower socio-economic resources, children, youth, Maori, Pacific peoples and those in remote and rural locations. 

The following guidance material contains more detailed information.

Preparing to prescribe in primary health and specialty teams Guidance for RNs and employers August 2016 (2) (PDF, 412 KB)

This document contains information on the qualifications, training and assessment requirements before a registered nurse is permitted to commence prescribing. It also explains the reasons that registered nurse prescribing has been introduced and the clinical governance and support that needs to be in place for registered nurse prescribing.

The Council will be updating its website with more information on the application process for nurses interested in a prescribing role and the medicines list in late September. 

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