Post election, what has happened to the long-awaited legislation about controlled drug prescribing by nurse and pharmacist prescribers (see here)? On 7 July, during a House of Lords short debate on pain control services, Baroness Emerton raised the question, asking whether the current situation could be untangled. She pointed out that nurse prescribers can prescribe some controlled drugs for specified conditions (for example, in palliative care or myocardial infarction) but not for chronic pain, which is a very frustrating position for all concerned. Matt Griffiths, ANP committee member and visiting professor of prescribing and medicines management at the University of Northampton and the University of the West of England, says that this can mean patients with chronic back pain, for example, waiting for several hours to see a doctor, who may then ask the specialist pain nurse running the clinic for advice on what to prescribe.
The answer, from Earl Howe (Department of Health Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Lords), said that, “it is essential that the right person gives the right medication at the right time……… Nurse prescribing is a welcome development that can benefit patients significantly. She would agree that services should continue to look at what professional mix can best deliver safe, timely and effective treatments for patients.” No further details were given on progress with the legislation in his answer. Although the relevant changes were made to the Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order 1997 in April 2008, changes to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 are currently with the Home Office.
The latest news is that these changes plus changes to the rules on patient group directions and mixing medicines where one or more controlled drugs is involved, may come through this summer. Watch this space!