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Ten years of nurse prescribing

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The role of the nurse prescriber The role of the nurse prescriber has developed since it’s conception 10 years ago

There was a time when prescribing was the preserve of doctors. Now, nurse prescribing in the UK is well-established as a mainstream qualification with over 54,000 nurse and midwife prescribers across the UK, and over 19,000 nurse independent and supplementary prescribers.1

The impetus behind this expansion began in July 2000, when the Department of Health (DH) published The NHS Plan.2 It promised to create new roles and responsibilities for nurses, and give them more opportunities to extend their nursing roles. One of the key aspects of this reform was to extend the role of nurse prescribers, with the then health secretary Alan Milburn pledging an extra £10 million to train 10,000 more nurse prescribers over the following three years.

In May 2006, appropriately qualified nurses gained access to the full British National Formulary (BNF) giving them virtually the same independent prescribing powers as doctors. This event ‘changed everything’, marking an important moment in the progression of nurse prescribers, recalls recently retired nurse prescriber, Teresa Kearney.

But Kearney also points out that the road to nurse prescribing has been ‘long and rough, and very political’ (Box 1). This is partly because of the belief of some doctors ‘that only they could prescribe’, she says.


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