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Report seeks to extend prescribing powers for nurses

15 November, 2013

A new report recommending an extension of nurses' scope of practice to diagnose and prescribe medication will lead to optimal health outcomes for patients across the national health system, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The draft Health Professionals Prescribing Pathway (HPPP), developed by Health Workforce Australia, allows for qualified health professionals such as nurses and midwives to prescribe certain medications — if it is in their scope of practice.

Already, more than 500 nurse practitioners and eligible midwives have the authority to write prescriptions that qualify for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

"As Australia's largest health union, the ANMF welcomes the HPPP on its innovative recommendation to extend the powers of highly educated nurses and midwives to prescribe certain types of medications," Lee Thomas, ANMF federal secretary, said in a recent statement.

"This initiative will assist in creating a sustainable model of care across the community by improving patients' access to be diagnosed and be provided with medications, giving them more choice in terms of accessing primary healthcare, without the lengthy waiting times often experienced in a doctor's surgery or medical centres.

"Predictably, critics have come out against the plan, claiming it will fragment patient care, but they must realise that doctors are no longer at the centre of patient care, given that nurses and midwives are highly qualified, regulated health professionals who determine their own scope of practice, each and every day.

"The ANMF would urge all healthcare professionals to work together to provide patients with improved models of care now and into the future."

The ANMF is heartened by the support of ministers at the Standing Council on Health, which agreed to endorse the HPPP, stating it will "provide a way for health professionals, other than medical practitioners to prescribe medications".

The ANMF, with over 230,000 members, is an industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

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