On 15 December 2009 the Drug Treatment Centre Board announced the graduation of two of its nurses as Nurse Prescribers in Addiction.1 This treatment centre is the first addiction service in Ireland to have qualified nurse prescribers. Making the announcement, the Board's general manager, Sheila Heffernan, said: 'Our range of services, specialist teams and dedication to excellence has positioned us perfectly to become the first to introduce nurse prescribing in addiction nationally.'
The 1998 report, Review of scope of practice for nursing and midwifery,2produced by An Bord Altranais recommended that nurse prescribing be introduced in Ireland. Internationally, this practice has been seen to improve the quality of patient care when used in appropriate circumstances. The advantages of nurse prescribing in addiction services include increased access to services for clients, improved continuity of care, reduced waiting times and improved quality of service and care.3
In May 2007, the Minister for Health signed the legislation to provide the legal authority for nurses and midwives to prescribe medication: Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2007 (SI No. 194 of 2007), Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (SI No. 201 of 2007) and Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (SI No. 200 of 2007).4
The first cohort of qualified nurse prescribers in Ireland was registered in January 2008.5 Prospective nurse prescribers must complete an approved six-month course and adhere to a set of practice standards and competencies for prescribing. In addition, An Bord Altranais requires any health facility employing nurse prescribers to have certain support structures in place. Currently, nurse prescribers cannot prescribe methadone. However, they can, where appropriate, prescribe certain controlled drugs under specific conditions of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, including drugs for the purpose of midwifery, such as pethidine, or drugs for palliative care, such as morphine sulphate.4
1. Drug Treatment Centre Board (2009) The Drug Treatment Centre Board pioneers first nurse prescribers in addiction in Ireland
. DTCB online news report dated 15 December 2009. Accessed 19 February 2010 at www.dtcb.ie/news
2. An Bord Altranais (2000) Review of scope of practice for nursing and midwifery: final report. Dublin: An Bord Altranais.
3. Gallagher J, O'Gara C, Sessay M and Luty J (2006) Nurse prescribing in addiction services: client benefits. Nursing Standard, 20(48): 42–44.
5. An Bord Altranais (2008) First registered nurse prescribers. An Bord Altranais News, 20(1): 1.