New Minister endorses nurse role expansion

22 October 2014

New Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has confirmed he's following in his predecessor's footsteps in being supportive of expanded nursing roles.

Nursing Review approached the new Minister and former GP to get his views on the Nursing Council application to the Ministry of Health (see other NewsFeed articles) for more registered nurses to be able to prescribe. While he was not prepared to pre-empt his decision on the Nursing Council application he did provide a written statement in response.

"I support the expansion of the role of nurses, as well as pharmacists and other health professionals, to enable them to fulfill their professional potential and make the best use of the health workforce available to us," said Coleman.

He pointed out that the government had recently extended the eligibility for practice nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) working in general practices to claim the General Medical Subsidy (GMS) and from July 1 the Medicines Amendment Act saw NPs become authorised prescribers. "We also have 33 diabetes nurse prescribers who are able to prescribe within their scope of practice as designated prescribers."

Currently only nurse practitioners and the approved diabetes nurse specialists can prescribe but a push began in 2011, at the instigation of then health minister Tony Ryall, to widen nurse prescribing. This lead to the Nursing Council consulting on nurse prescribing options last year and this month lodging an application for suitably qualified RNs to become designated prescribers.

Coleman also pointed to the ongoing drafting of the long-awaited bill that will amend references to medical practitioners in a wide range of legislation to enable suitably qualified health practitioners, such as nurses, to undertake some statutory functions including completing cause of death certificates and providing medical certificates.

"New Zealand is moving towards a more integrated and better connected health care service which holds the patient at the central focus," said Coleman in the statement. "Nurses are playing a vital role in this shift."