Nurses to Get MORE Powers; Bid to Speed Up Treatment of Patients

Article excerpt

NURSES are to be given new powers to prescribe drugs to patients - without having to consult doctors first.

The move, to be announced by Health Minister Lord Hunt tomorrow, is aimed at speeding up treatment for patients suffering minor injuries, asthma attacks and diabetes.

It is the first step in a wider plan to give nurses more responsibility for routine medical decisions which legally can only be taken by doctors at present.

Current rules have produced glaring anomalies which waste valuable time for both staff and patients.

It means a nurse who is an expert in treating asthma patients cannot at the moment prescribe an inhaler for sufferers. And nurses in emergency departments who clean, stitch and dress minor injuries cannot prescribe the antibiotics necessary to prevent the wound from becoming infected.

Under the new rules, nurses will be able to prescribe insulin to diabetics, give tetanus injections and prescribe more powerful pain-killers.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said last night: "Unfortunately, delays have been built into the NHS from its inception.

"We need to wipe away some of the traditional demarcations which have stopped us streamlining care. …