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Updated at 6:34 pm on 7 April 2011
Nurses working in specialist diabetes health care have been given the power to prescribe medicines to patients.
The move was announced by Health Minister Tony Ryall in Auckland on Thursday.
Mr Ryall says the initiative is likely to be rolled out nationally after a six-month trial involving district health boards in Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Mid-Central in Palmerston North and Hutt Valley near Wellington.
Only registered nurses will be able to prescribe medicines under the guidance of a doctor.
Mr Ryall says registered nurses specialising in diabetes already take substantial responsibility for independently managing patients and the extra power will result in better continuity and less complexity for patients.
The minister says diabetes is on the rise and, with growing health workforce shortages, smarter ways of doing things are needed.
Government agency Health Workforce New Zealand says the move came from diabetes specialists, but it took a regulation change to achieve.
The Nursing Council says the six-month pilot project could pave the way for a wider role for nurses generally.
Chief executive Carolyn Reed says the move will be safe for patients, who will get better access to healthcare as a result of it, and nurses have a promising future as well.
"We have a lot of very experienced nurses who are able to take on greater roles and this pilot project will inform us as to whether we can do something similar in other areas of health care."
The Society for the Study of Diabetes says giving nurses the power to prescribe medicines is welcome and they for this for 15 years.
The society's medical director, Paul Drury, who also is the clinical head of the Auckland Diabetes Centre at Greenlane Hospital, says the United Kingdom already allows the practice.
Dr Drury says diabetes is a major problem and patients will get quicker and cheaper care.
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