New guidance for nurses prescribing via phone or online consultations

NMC and other regulators set principles to ensure patient safety when accessing care remotely

NMC and other regulators set principles to ensure patient safety when accessing care remotely

Image of a nurse with a telephone headset Picture – iStock
Picture: iStock

Nurses who provide online or telephone prescriptions now have a set of guiding principles to follow.

The principles, jointly agreed by 13 healthcare regulators and professional bodies, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), are to ensure the safety of patients when they access services remotely.

What the prescribing principles cover

The new principles state that nurses who prescribe medication online or over the phone should:

  • Raise concerns if patient identification and verification checks are not adequate.
  • Understand how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them.
  • State their name, job role and professional registration details, and explain to the patient how the remote consultation will work.  
  • Explain that they can only prescribe if it is safe to do so. If not, they will refer or signpost to the appropriate services.
  • Obtain informed consent and follow mental capacity law and codes of practice.
  • Undertake a clinical assessment and access medical records.
  • Give patients accessible information about all the options available to them.
  • Ensure all information is shared with relevant colleagues and health and social care providers to support ongoing monitoring and treatment.
  • Keep notes explaining and justifying the decisions made.
  • Stay up to date with training, support and guidance on providing healthcare remotely.

The document also makes clear that healthcare professionals should continue to follow guidelines from regulatory bodies and take clinical guidance into account in their decision-making.

It says it is up to the employer and healthcare professional to outline when remote prescribing is not an option.

Maintaining the quality of care

Roughly 10% of nurses and midwives on the NMC register hold prescribing qualifications, according to the regulator.

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe said that the quality of care must remain the same in remote consultations as in a face-to-face care.

‘The Code already sets out how [nurses] can demonstrate they are appropriately supporting and protecting people seeking their care,’ Sutcliffe said.

‘I hope this guidance helps to clarify further what safe and effective consultations and prescribing practice looks and feels like.’

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