Background. From Spring 2006, independent extended nurse prescribers in the United Kingdom will be able to prescribe any licensed medicines except controlled drugs. Supplementary nurse prescribers are currently able to prescribe any medication. No other country in the world has such extended prescribing rights for nurses. Aspects of prescribing viewed positively by nurses include continuity of care, increased satisfaction, and the belief that patients receive improved information about prescriptions. There is some evidence, however, that nurses feel ill-prepared to prescribe due to poor understanding of pharmacology, physical assessment and diagnosis.
Aim. This paper reports a study assessing the extent to which independent extended supplementary nurse prescribers feel prepared to prescribe medicines for patients with dermatological conditions.
Methods. A convenience sample of 1187 qualified independent extended supplementary nurse prescribers was sent a postal questionnaire. A total of 868 completed questionnaires was returned, and 638 of these nurses prescribed medicines for skin conditions. The data were collected in 2005.
Results. A total of 605 (94·8%) participants used independent extended prescribing and 234 (36·7%) supplementary prescribing. The majority were highly experienced and worked in primary care. In general, their prescribing programme had met their needs when prescribing medicines for patients with dermatological conditions. However, the needs of those who had undertaken a diploma-level module in dermatology and/or dermatology study days, and those working in both primary and secondary care, were met to a statistically significantly greater extent during the programme than for those nurses without this preparation, or those working in either primary or secondary care.
Conclusion. Independent extended supplementary prescribing has extended the role that nurses in the United Kingdom are able to play in the management of skin disease. Specialist dermatology training is a prerequisite for nurses adopting this role. Further evaluative work on patient-focused outcomes, i.e. accessibility and convenience of care, and satisfaction with quality of care, is required.