Can medicines be supplied under patient group directions (PGDs) when the patient is absent? Yes, in exceptional circumstances, says the answer to a new frequently asked question on the PGD website here.
The legal framework and associated guidance does not say that the patient must be present, so they do not have to be, but the requirements for PGDs mean that an adequate assessment is needed. Only when the circumstances are exceptional, and the use of a PGD in the absence of the patient unavoidable, should this be done, and assessment could then include a telephone conversation with the patient or a discussion with a close relative.
A recent editorial in Practice Nursing (volume 20, issue 6, p267) highlights the inconsistent and complex system for developing PGDs for general practices, with many Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) no longer willing to undertake this role. The author argues that a simpler system is needed: the RCN has asked for PGDs to be addressed in the review of medicines legislation but what should practice nurses do in the meantime? As non-medical prescribing leads in Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) have apparently been made aware of the situation, practice nurses could contact their non-medical prescribing lead if they are having trouble getting PGDs authorised.