New Zealanders will be able to skip a doctor's appointment and get certain common medicines prescribed by a specially-trained nurse from next month.
The prescribing nurses will be specially trained, work in a team that includes an authorised prescriber, and prescribe from a schedule of common medicines.
Contraceptives or antibiotics for sexually transmitted diseases are medicines that could be prescribed under the new scheme that starts on September 20, says Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.
"The changes mean a suitably trained registered nurse working in a primary care team could treat a person needing medicines for a straightforward condition, potentially removing the need to refer him or her to a doctor or nurse practitioner.
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"This has the potential to deliver faster care, reduce double handling and improve access to medicines."
Currently, specialist diabetes nurses can prescribe common medicines such as metformin and insulin.
"Our experience with registered nurses prescribing for people with diabetes, and evidence from other countries such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, tells us that registered nurse prescribing is safe, acceptable to patients, and improves access to medicines," Coleman said.
New Zealand's Nursing Council will have oversight of the new prescribing regime.
Regulations will also be amended to allow nurse practitioners and prescribing optometrists to issue standing orders from August 17.
A standing order is a written instruction authorising someone without prescribing rights to administer and/or supply specified medicines.
Nurse practitioners are expert nurses who work within a specific area of practice.