Increase in nurse prescribing in mental health

There has been a ‘marked growth’ in nurse prescribing in mental health services in England in the last three years, according to the results of a national survey of directors of nursing in mental health trusts. Trusts may be going in different directions: some are mainly, or exclusively, developing supplementary prescribing; others are planning to focus mostly on independent prescribing, using supplementary prescribing as a stepping stone for nurses to develop skills and confidence before prescribing independently.

Despite the overall growth in nurse prescribing in mental health, both the numbers of nurse prescribers and the proportions of independent and supplementary nurse prescribers vary between trusts. It is still not clear which type of prescribing is most appropriate for different settings and which aspects of the supplementary prescribing role will continue to be useful as nurses begin to use independent prescribing (overall seen as more valuable in the survey). Organizations need to examine workforce planning models for nurse prescribing in specific specialties or services and further work is needed to maximize the development of prescribing roles and the benefits gained them. The authors caution that despite a reasonable response rate, it is possible that trusts with no interest in the subject were less likely to respond to the survey.

Dobel-Ober D, Brimblecombe N and Bradley E. Nurse prescribing in mental health: national survey. J Psychiatr Men Health Nursing 2010; published online 11 January.