2 Dec 2013

Rural nurses to prescribe medication next year

12:51 pm on 2 December 2013

Rural health representatives are welcoming a law change that will allow nurses more freedom to prescribe medication next year.

They say the change is especially good news for rural communities.

Nurse practitioners are expert nurses who have undertaken advanced qualifications.

Rural General Practice Network deputy chair Sharon Hansen says the passing of the Medicines Amendment Bill will make it easier for patients in rural areas to get the medical care they need.

"At the moment we are designated prescribers and in effect that means we cannot prescribe controlled medication for more than three days at a time."

She says some nurses in rural areas work in nurse-led clinics and access to GPs is less certain so it's not so convenient for patients to have their script signed off.

Ms Hansen says the legislation is a great first step - but there is other outdated legislation in place that needs to go.

For example nurses, she says, may not declare life extinct and must call in a doctor which she says causes unnecessary delays and distress to the families of the deceased.

Ms Hansen says nurse practioners are more than capable of carrying out insurance medicals too.

The Rural Health Practice Network is also voicing its concern following a recent industry survey that it says shows it is hard to get doctors to work in rural New Zealand.

Its says rural areas are increasingly having to rely on foreign doctors to plug the gap.

The new legislation will come into effect in July 2014, but Ms Hansen says more changes are needed to improve health care in rural communities.