Intended for healthcare professionals


Extended prescribing by UK nurses and pharmacists

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 17 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1154
  1. Anthony J Avery, professor of primary health care (,
  2. Mike Pringle, professor of general practice
  1. Division of Primary Care, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH

    With more evidence and strict safeguards, it could benefit patients

    Earlier this year the United Kingdom Department of Health consulted on options for extending prescribing by nurses and pharmacists.1 2 Last week the department announced that nurse and pharmacist independent prescribers will be able to prescribe any licensed drug except controlled drugs—the most radical of the options considered.3 This proposal heralds one of the most far reaching extensions of prescribing by nurses and pharmacists anywhere in the world.

    The BMA has responded with dismay.4 One of the association's concerns is that it is not safe to prescribe without training in diagnosis. We accept that this is true in most cases but note that training is becoming available for many nurses and pharmacists in the UK. As a result, both professions are able to diagnose and manage acute illnesses in primary care, and some are already prescribing independently, albeit from a limited formulary. In secondary care specialist nurses diagnose and manage in a wide range of clinical fields.

    Nevertheless, the potential for nurses …

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