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Government snubbed its advisers on antibiotic prescribing by nurses

The Government ignored its own advisers on antibiotic resistance when it forged ahead with extended independent nurse prescribing, reveals a new report.

The delayed document from the Medicines Control Agency reveals how experts within the Department of Health had warned ministers against allowing nurses to prescribe antibiotics, fearing it would hamper the fight against antimicrobial resistance. However, in April ministers chose to ignore advice emanating from its specialist advisory committee on antimicrobial resistance by allowing specialist nurses to start prescribing antibiotics.

In its formal response to an MCA consultation on the Government's plans, the committee said: 'Systemic antibiotics should be excluded from the nurses' list or at least restricted to very few situations.'

The report published earlier this month reveals widespread opposition to extended independent nurse prescribing among other expert bodies.

The Public Health Laboratory Service said it 'noted with regret' the decision to allow nurses to prescribe antibiotics. 'Extending the number and range of professionals who can prescribe antibiotics runs counter to recommendations of professional and Government groups.'

A spokesman told Pulse: 'We're still concerned about expanding the right to prescribe to large numbers of new prescribers at a time when resistance is a factor with a large number of antibiotics.'

The RCGP warned in its formal response that the supervised practice period for training nurses was 'grossly insufficient' while the BMA said it was 'unconvinced' nurses could be trained to prescribe safely in the given timescale.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GPC prescribing sub-committee member, said the GPC still had unanswered concerns over antibiotic prescribing. 'GPs were given the Standing Medical Advisory Committee guidelines on trying to reduce antibiotic prescribing, and the rate has fallen. Given all that, we need to be very cautious about extending antibiotic prescribing more widely.'

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