Revised 'barriers' Bill adds new role for NPs

9 March 2016

The long-awaited 'barriers' bill is being revised after the select committee hearings proposed new amendments allowing NPs to supervise registered nurse prescribers.

A decade in the making the Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill initially sought to amend seven Acts to replace references to 'doctors' or 'medical practitioners' where nurse practitioners and other health practitioners are now qualified to carry out those roles.

Widening prescribing for registered nurses is also going through the regulatory process at present after the Government agreed in November 2015 that RNs working in primary health and specialty teams can become designated prescribers under the Medicines Act 1981.

In anticipation of this move the Health Select Committee reported back on the Health Practitioners Bill late last year making a number of recommended changes including amending an eight Act, the Medicines Act 1981, to permit nurse practitioners, as well as medical practitioners and dentists, to supervised designated prescribers such as suitably qualified and approved registered nurses.

Late last month a parliamentary bills digest was released summarising proposed amendments to the Health Practitioners Bill included adding in an amendment to the Medicines Act 1981 that would include a new definition of nurse practitioner and permit NPs to supervise designated prescribers.

Other changes include proposed new amendments to the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 to allow nurse practitioners or registered nurses practicing in mental health, to issue a certificate to accompany an application for assessment.  Currently only a medical practitioner can issue these certificates.

A further amendment would be to insert a new clause so that if an approved psychiatrist is not available to carry out an assessment examination under the Mental Health Act then not only a suitably qualified and approved medical practitioner may carry out this examination but also a suitably qualified and approved nurse practitioner.

Another proposed new amendment under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 would allow designated prescriber pharmacists, in certain circumstances, to prescribe controlled drugs when treating a person for drug dependency.

The original bill already proposes opening up a number of other functions to nurse practitioners that currently can only be done by medical practitioners including signing death certificates, taking blood specimens from drunk drivers, declaring people unfit to drive, prescribing controlled drugs and signing sick leave certificates.


The revised bill is now awaiting its second reading in parliament.

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