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RCGP concern over extension of controlled drug prescribing

The RCGP has warned of its concerns over Government plans to allow nurses and pharmacists to prescribe any controlled drug.

The college's comments came as a Home Office advisory committee met to decide whether to recommend extending independent nurse and pharmacist prescribers' powers.

Since May 2006, independent nurse prescribing of controlled drugs has been tightly controlled and restricted to only 12 controlled drugs, including morphine and diamorphine, for specific conditions.

Pharmacist independent prescribers are unable to pre-scribe any controlled drugs.

But the Home Office began consulting in March on proposals to expand the existing legislation – allowing independent nurse and pharmacist prescribers to prescribe all controlled drugs. The consultation will also consider the feasibility of allowing nurses and pharmacists to prescribe opioids for the treatment of heroin addiction.

Professor Molly Courtenay, professor of prescribing and medicines management at the University of Reading, and a delegate at the meeting, said she backed the expansion in nurse prescribing, ‘particularly for specialist nurses in pain control and palliative care'.

She told Pulse her research, surveying nearly 2,000 nurse prescribers, showed two-thirds worked in primary care, and the evidence they reduced GP workload was ‘very positive'.

But Dr Jim Kennedy, RCGP prescribing spokesperson, said extra training would be needed before health professionals took on the responsibility of controlled drug prescribing.

‘Addicts are a particularly high-risk group, with particular pitfalls around prescribing,' he said. ‘Anyone prescribing opiate medications for patients with addiction problems should have further training.'

He said although he could understand why the expansion in access would be useful for palliative care nurses, it would ‘hugely expand the number of people needing to be monitored'.

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