The authors are grateful for the thoughtful comments on our article, Effectiveness of nurse prescribing: a review of the literature. New roles for nurses, such as prescribing, have the potential to improve the quality of care received by patients by ensuring speedier access to medicines, and will also ensure better use of nursing skills. However, these claims need to be investigated through systematic research into the processes and outcomes of nurse prescribing. Active and lively debate among the nursing community, surrounding the implementation of expanded roles such as prescribing, is also necessary if their true potential is to be realized.
David Barrett's comments regarding the gaps in the current research base on nurse prescribing, underline the conclusions from the literature review. We agree that although rigorous training programmes delivered by higher education institutions and the development of prescribing competency frameworks such as that developed by the National Prescribing Centre (2001) will go some way to ensure patient safety, there is a great need for large-scale research studies to evaluate nurse prescribing. Since this literature review was undertaken, the authors have been awarded funding from the Department of Health (DoH), as part of the Policy Research Programme, to conduct a national evaluation of extended formulary independent nurse prescribing which will address the research gaps identified here (Latter, Courtenay, Dunn, Maben & Myall, in progress).
The authors are cognisant of the international prescribing context in conducting both the literature review and the national Department of Health-funded study that is currently in progress. As David Barrett points out, there are difficulties in the application of research from overseas to the health care setting in the UK, but nevertheless some useful insights may also be drawn if these are used selectively and judiciously. Readers might gain some useful insights from the International Council of Nurses’ publication, Implications of Nurse Prescribing – A Review of Current Practice Internationally (2003) which can be downloaded from http://www.icn.ch
Nurse prescribing is a rapidly evolving area of policy and practice. Rigorous research and reviews of research will help to inform policy development and so contribute to improvements in the quality of care received by patients.