• nurse prescribing;
  • professionalization;
  • law and ethics;
  • medical power;
  • politics and government

Nurse prescribing: radicalism or tokenism?¶The creation of The Medical Products (Prescription by Nurses, etc.) Act 1992 has been generally welcomed by the nursing profession. This article seeks to introduce a note of scepticism about the assumed motivations for its introduction through an analysis of various legal, ethical, economic and political dimensions. In reviewing the position of nursing vis-à-vis medicine it is argued that one of the ways that nursing has sought to improve its professional position is to take on work previously done by doctors, and nurse prescribing can be seen in the context of the concurrent de-regulation of medicines, allowing greater access to medicines and therefore greater consumer choice. This de-regulation stems from the liberation ideology of the previous Conservative government. Viewed in this way nurse prescribing, particularly with reference to the limited nature of the nursing formulary, can be seen to be anomalous. In the light of this analysis, the reasons generally put forward (notably in the Crown Report 1989) for the introduction of nurse prescribing could be seen to be peripheral to its real purpose. It is argued that the most convincing reasons for its introduction relate to the medical profession as a social institution. It is proposed that the three primary aims behind the introduction of nurse prescribing are: the saving of money; the transfer of routine medical work to nursing; and a challenge to the professional monolith of medicine.