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Study prompts fears over nurse prescribing

By Cato Pedder

A new study has exposed gaping holes in the ongoing training of nurse prescribers, raising serious questions about how prepared they are for access to the entire BNF.

Nearly half of 868 nurse prescribers surveyed admitted they had undergone no continuous professional development since qualifying to prescribe.

A third said they were unable to access continuous professional development ­ with training needs most acute in nurses working in primary care.

Study leader Dr Molly Cour-tenay, reader in nurse prescribing and medicines management at the University of Reading, said: 'The continuing professional development needs of nurse prescribers are frequently unmet. It will become increasingly important that these needs are met.'

Primary care nurses reported an average of 2.76 continuous professional development needs each ­ most commonly updates on prescribing policy and chronic disease management ­ compared with 1.97 for those working in secondary care.

But Dr Courtenay said the 'vast majority' of nurses surveyed were highly qualified to prescribe, with at least 10 years of post-registration experience.

GP prescribing experts were less convinced, warning the findings reinforced concerns over the decision to allow nurse independent prescribers access to the whole formulary, which came into force on 1 May this year.

Dr George Rae, member of the GPC prescribing subcommittee and a GP in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, said GPs supported limited nurse prescribing, but not from the whole formulary. 'That feeling would certainly be reinforced if one is now hearing their ongoing experience and additional practice is not up to what it should be.'

Professor Hugh McGavock, visiting professor of prescribing science at the University of Ulster, said: 'Nurses have less than a 10th of the education they need to be safe prescribers from the entire BNF.

'The fact that on top of they can't access continuing development training makes it doubly worrying.'

The national questionnaire study was published online by the International Journal of Nursing Studies.

The rise of nurse prescribing

· There are currently 3,647 independent nurse prescribers, around two-thirds of them in primary care

· From 1 May this year independent nurse prescribers have been able to prescribe any licensed medicine except for some controlled drugs, for any condition

· Nurses must have at least three years' experience and be educated to degree level before training as prescribers

· Training is a minimum of 26 days, with additional 12 days of supervised learning in practice

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