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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Wide-reaching report finds strong support for nurse and pharmacist prescribing

Published: 9 May 2011

Greater powers introduced by the government to enable specially-trained nurses and pharmacists to prescribe medication in England have been successfully adopted, according to a new report. Health service researchers from the universities of Southampton and Keele found widespread acceptance of the new powers among patients and that prescribing practices were safe and appropriate for the type of medical conditions being treated.

The Department of Health-funded report, published today (Monday, 9 May 2011), gives a national ‘snapshot' of how successfully nurse and pharmacist prescribing is being used in primary care trusts, GP surgeries, and hospitals.
"This study is the first national evaluation of independent prescribing by nurses and pharmacists since legislation in 2006 enabled nurses and pharmacists to independently prescribe across an extensive range of medicines.  Our research shows that the practice is becoming a well-integrated and established means of managing a patient's condition.
"We were also able to highlight areas to the government where expansion of non-medical prescribing could strengthen NHS services in order to meet health care needs of the future," comments Sue Latter, professor of Nursing at the University of Southampton, who led the study. 
The legislation, which gave experienced nurses and pharmacists powers to prescribe medication to patients, was viewed by some as controversial when it was introduced in 2006.  Specially-trained nurses and pharmacists in England are now able to manage all aspects of a patient's treatment including diagnosis, prescription and monitoring, without supervision by a doctor.
"Our research shows that nurse and pharmacist independent prescribers are now making a substantial contribution to patient care which is safe and of good quality," says Alison Blenkinsopp, professor of the Practice of Pharmacy at Keele University.
"Commissioners of healthcare can use our findings to make the most effective use of nurse and pharmacist prescribing when they are commissioning services."
The report also found that:

  • 86 per cent of nurses and 71 per cent of pharmacists are using their new powers after training as a prescriber.
  • Most nurses and pharmacists are prescribing in a primary care setting, with substantial numbers also in secondary care settings, such as hospitals.
  • Most patients did not mind whether they received care from a nurse, pharmacist or a doctor.
  • Enabling non-medical prescribing to develop further, by additional training of nurses and pharmacists to treat patients with more than one medical condition, could improve patient care and efficiency in the health service

Notes for editors

  1.  "Evaluation of nurse and pharmacist independent prescribing": Professor Sue Latter, Alison Blenkinsopp, Alesha Smith, Steve Chapman, MichelaTinelli, Karen Gerard, Paul Little, Nicola Celino, Trudy Granby, Peter Nicholls, Gill Dorer. 
  2. The research assessed nurse and pharmacist prescribing in England. It took place over a two year period, between May 2008 and 2010. Surveys were conducted to: quantify the scope and scale of prescribing; obtain the opinions, experiences and preferences of patients; evaluate the governance and management of nurse and pharmacist prescribing in health care organisations; and identify how satisfied the prescribers were with the training they received in universities.
  3. This is an independent report commissioned and funded by the Policy Research Programme in the Department of Health. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Department.
  4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.  
    With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover well in excess of £400 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.
    The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres including the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Web Science Research Initiative, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute and is a partner of the National Oceanography Centre at the Southampton waterfront campus.
  5. Keele University: Keele was the first higher education institution established after the Second World War, gaining degree-giving powers in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire. University status, as Keele University, followed in 1962. Its founders espoused radical educational principles and the University was founded to promote interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary scholarship. It sought to, and continues to, make a unique contribution to higher education by emphasising the strength of a broad educational programme. 80% of undergraduate students still study two subjects to honours level.
    Keele is the UK's largest integrated campus occupying a 617 acre estate, the central feature of which is the 19th century Keele Hall. A one hundred acre area of the estate, adjacent to Keele Hall, has designated conservation status. Many architectural and landscape features dating from the 19th century are of regional significance.
    Keele's position as a leading university for research of world leading and of international standard was confirmed by the UK-wide Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008.  The RAE found that 85% of the University's research is now classified as world leading and of international importance. Keele has top rated departments in all of its three Faculties: Health, Humanities and Social Sciences and Natural Sciences, and the RAE results reveal the University's world class research activities across a wide spectrum of subject areas.
    For further information contact:
    Sophie Docker , Media Relations, University of Southampton
    Tel: 023 8059 8933, email:


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