The number of nurses prescribing controlled drugs in primary care settings rose by 12% in 2014, according to a report published by the CQC.
The CQC's annual update on the prescriptions of controlled drugs, showed that 740,602 controlled drugs were prescribed by primary care nurses in 2014, a rise of 79,058 from 661,554 in 2013. The report states that nurses predominantly prescribed drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine, which are used to manage a patient's addiction to substances. The CQC has said that while nurses currently represent only a small proportion of healthcare workers prescribing controlled drugs, the organisation expects to see the number of nurses prescribing these drugs to continue to increase.
Sarah Dennison, the CQC's national controlled drugs manager, said: 'We recognise that independent prescribing of controlled drugs is predominantly seen in the treatment of substance misuse at present but anticipate future increases in both primary and secondary care as non-medical prescribing in general becomes a better integrated and more established means of managing a patient's condition and providing access to medicines.'
The report sets out a number of recommendations to strengthen the provision of controlled drugs. It cites training nurse prescribers in the use of controlled drugs as an example of good practice when prescribing controlled drugs. Other recommendations include engaging with CCGs, improving the reporting of occurrences of controlled drug prescription, and increasing the consistency across the country of prescribing controlled drugs.
Professor Steve Field, the CQC's chief inspector for general practice, said: 'In the last eight years, we have seen diminishing resources, changes to the structure of the NHS, and ever-broadening complexities of the therapeutic use – and misuse – of controlled drugs. This provides continual challenges for healthcare professionals in the safe management and use of controlled drugs.'
A controlled drug is a medicine covered by the Misuse of Drugs Acct. This means that there are stricter controls on production, storage and provision of the drug.