Press Release

Tánaiste to bring in enabling legislation for prescribing by certain nurses and midwives

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, today announced that she intends to bring forward enabling legislation for prescribing by certain nurses and midwives. The Tanaiste was launching the Review of Nurses and Midwives in the Prescribing and Administration of Medicinal Products which was jointly conducted by An Bord Altranais and the National Council for the professional development of nursing and midwifery.

The report recommends that prescriptive authority should be extended to nurses and midwives subject to regulations and that the relevant legislation should be amended to enable this.

The report also recommends that there should be an explicit legislative base for the expansion of the use of medication protocols by nurses and midwives in hospital and community settings.

The Tanaiste said ‘This move is in the interest of patients and I want to ensure that this happens in a way that makes the best use of the professionals working in the system. I support prescriptive authority for nurses in situations where it would mean greater accessibility and convenience for patients, where it would help community services and acute services and where it is safe.’

She pointed out that she had remarked on a number of occasions since becoming Minister for Health and Children that we must enable all members of the multidisciplinary team to work to the full extent of their abilities. We owe it to patients, to our staff and to the taxpayer. Nurses and midwives are in the front line, closely involved in the assessment, planning, delivery and evaluation of care.

The Tanaiste complimented2 the authors of the Review of Nurses and Midwives in the prescribing and administration of medicinal products which makes a very welcome contribution to the debate. It is a well researched and detailed review of the approaches taken abroad and the outcomes. She welcomed the broad composition of the Steering Group which included representation from the patient association, professions, and services as well as her own Department.

She said ‘The Irish healthcare system is changing rapidly and we need to support that change with the proper legislation and regulation.

My Department has been looking at the legal issues involved in prescriptive authority for nurses for some time and I will be able to bring forward the relevant amendments to the Irish Medicines Board Bill to provide an enabling provision for limited nurse/midwife prescribing. That Bill also provides for regulations to be made covering the supply of medicines under protocol.’

Announcing her intention to change the law the Tánaiste also said that her Department would be conducting a consultation with all stakeholders on the implementation of this issue before regulations are drawn up.

She said ‘We need collaboration between all care givers if we are to make the health system work better and we need to recognise that working across boundaries is an essential part of that collaboration. We have invested heavily in nursing education and training in recent years and it is important that we harness that talent effectively.

Nurses and midwives have had prescribing rights in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the US and the UK. Some very interesting models have been developed which could be applied in Ireland.’

The Tánaiste also emphasised ‘Services must be safe and they must be effective. Nurses and midwives are a well regulated profession which is an essential requirement for the changes I am announcing today.