Nursing groups are describing the government’s decision to give nurse practitioners full prescribing rights as a breakthrough.
Under changes announced in the federal budget that prescriptions ordered by midwives and nurse practitioners will be covered by the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS).
Nurse practitioners have been seen by some as a particular solution to the shortage of GPs in aged care.
The Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) applauded the government on the announcement.
“This initiative will keep people well, in the community and ultimately reduce pressure on public hospitals,” said federal secretary, Ged Kearney.
“[It] represents a new era of health care and is a landmark reform of our health and hospital system.”
The measure was also welcomed by the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP).
“This is a sensible decision that recognises the safe, effective and timely care that nurse practitioners are delivering Australia-wide,” said the college’s president, Helen Gosby.
“Nurse practitioners are already legislated and regulated in their states and territories to prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests and refer to specialists and this initiative is in line with contemporary practice.”
The ANF is maintaining its commitment to aged care reform through its ongoing ‘Because we care’ campaign.
“We are in desperate need of nursing staff with the right mix of nursing skills in aged care,” said Ms Kearney.
“The ANF looks forward to working with the Federal Government for increased funding and reform for the aged care sector in the future.”
The Australian Medical Association’s(AMA) position on the new measures is a little more cautious.
“We are concerned that independent nurse practitioner prescribing will lead to fragmentation of care which could adversely affect patient outcomes,” said Kirk Coningham from the AMA. ”In the interests of safety and quality, the AMA advocates for medical practitioner led, team based patient care where each health profession contributes an essential mix of skills and experience to achieve the highest quality of care for patients.
“We would need to see the Government’s proposals for a collaborative model before we could be reassured that patient safety will not be compromised.”
The AMA would also like to see the Government address the shortage of GP’s in aged care facilities with alternative strategies.
“Doctors need to offset income lost from their practice when attending residential aged care patients,” said Coningham. “ This could be achieved in one of two ways; Government funding for services agreements between approved residential aged care providers and medical practitioners or MBS items that better reflect complexity and the significant amount of clinically relevant non face to face time involved in providing medical care and medical supervision to residents of aged care facilities.”