Rosie Mundt-Leach and Duncan Hill reveal the results of a survey of nurses, pharmacists and midwives prescribing medication to treat drug and alcohol misuse in nine regions of the UK
Aims To locate all non-medical prescribers working in substance misuse services in England and Scotland. To record each one’s profession, employment sector, work setting and pay band.
Method Informants in all substance misuse prescribing services in England and Scotland who answered a series of survey questions about active non-medical prescribers working in their service were identified. Respondents were interviewed by telephone, face to face or asked questions by email depending on convenience. A supplementary question was put to non-medical prescribers attending a conference asking them to estimate the average number of patients for whom they prescribed each month.
Results A total of 362 non-medical prescribers were located in England and Scotland, there were many more nurses than pharmacists identified in England, but in Scotland there was a much smaller majority of nurses. The non-medical prescribers were mostly working in the NHS and the north east of England had the largest number working in any one region. Most non-medical prescribers worked in community drug and alcohol teams, and most were paid at NHS bands 6 or 7. The average number of patients prescribed for each month was about 65.
Conclusions The number of non-medical prescribers has grown substantially since a previous estimate was made of their numbers in 2007. The use of non-medical prescribers leads to a greater skill differentiation among key workers in community drug and alcohol teams and provides an opportunity for nurses and pharmacists to work at an advanced level, and this could affect the shape of drug and alcohol services in the future. The volume of prescribing work they do may increase too because they are now able to work as independent prescribers of opiate substitution treatment.
Mental Health Practice.
17, 9, 28-35.
This article has been subject to double blind peer review
Conflict of interest
Received: 21 February 2013
Accepted: 01 October 2013