Registered nurse prescribing

Registered nurse prescribing will improve people’s access to healthcare, including access to medicines, and improve care while maintaining safety.

Registered nurse prescribing will make best use of the knowledge and skills of nurses for positive health outcomes. Demand for health care is increasing as the population ages and more New Zealanders are living with long-term conditions and registered nurse prescribing will contribute to addressing demand.

International evidence supports the use of nurse prescribing.  Nurses with prescribing authority are becoming increasingly common in overseas jurisdictions. International evidence indicates nurse prescribing patterns are similar to other prescribers and safe. Evidence suggests benefits of extended nurse prescribing include:

  • improved access to treatment
  • enhanced care
  • more effective use of medical staff’s time
  • strengthened inter-professional working practices
  • increased professional satisfaction for nurses.

Government decision

In November 2015, Government agreed to the proposal for registered nurses working in primary health and specialty teams to become designated prescribers under the Medicines Act 1981 (the Act). Regulations will allow suitably qualified registered nurses working in primary health and specialty teams to prescribe specified medicines. The Cabinet paper is provided in the link below.

The prescription medicines allowed will be specified by notice in the New Zealand Gazette by the Director-General of Health as required under section 105(5A) of the Medicines Act and in amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1977. People will now be able to obtain a prescription for these medicines when visiting a designated registered nurse prescriber rather than needing to see a doctor or nurse practitioner to obtain a prescription. Registered nurse prescribers will work as team members in primary care or specialist clinics.

The Ministry of Health’s Regulatory Impact Statement provides an assessment of the options considered to improve people’s access to these medicines.

Designated Registered Nurse Prescribing Regulations

 Registered nurses with authorisation to prescribe will be able to prescribe from 20 September 2016.

History of registered nurse prescribing in New Zealand

The Nursing Council conducted sector consultation in 2013 on the development of this proposal (see a fuller description of the consultation), with most submitters in support of it.

In 2014, the Nursing Council applied to the Ministry of Health for designated prescribing rights for registered nurses practising in primary health and specialty teams. The application proposed that suitably qualified and experienced registered nurses would be allowed to prescribe for patients with some long term and common conditions within a collaborative team. Further ophthalmological medicines were included in the application, because they were proposed for inclusion in the 2013 consultation.

The full application document can be found on the Nursing Council’s website. The Nursing Council further consulted on the addition of the ophthalmological medicines in 2015. You can read more about the 2015 consultation at Consultation on the specialist ophthalmology schedule of medicines.

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