Expert advice

Medicines management: Should the NMC withdraw its standards for medicines management?

As part of its overhaul of nursing education, the Nursing and Midwifery Council is consulting on plans to withdraw its standards for medicines management. But medicines legislation is complicated and this could put both patients and nurses at risk, warns medicines management expert Matt Griffiths. 
NMC

As part of its overhaul of nursing education, the Nursing and Midwifery Council is consulting on plans to withdraw its standards for medicines management. But medicines legislation is complicated and this could put both patients and nurses at risk, warns medicines management expert Matt Griffiths

The proposed withdrawal of the standards for medicines management is potentially detrimental to both nurses and patients.

Medicines legislation is extremely complicated. The standards help practitioners understand what is legal and what is illegal, and help them understand legislation on licenced, off-licence and unlicensed medicines and the impact this could have on them.

Other subjects covered by the standards include patient group directions, remote prescriptions, delegation, the management of adverse events and controlled drugs.

There is so much helpful information available in this one document, and with the average nurse spending 40% of their

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As part of its overhaul of nursing education, the Nursing and Midwifery Council is consulting on plans to withdraw its standards for medicines management. But medicines legislation is complicated and this could put both patients and nurses at risk, warns medicines management expert Matt Griffiths


Picture: Charles Milligan

The proposed withdrawal of the standards for medicines management is potentially detrimental to both nurses and patients.

Medicines legislation is extremely complicated. The standards help practitioners understand what is legal and what is illegal, and help them understand legislation on licenced, off-licence and unlicensed medicines and the impact this could have on them. 

Other subjects covered by the standards include patient group directions, remote prescriptions, delegation, the management of adverse events and controlled drugs. 

There is so much helpful information available in this one document, and with the average nurse spending 40% of their working day dealing with medicines, it is vital they can find the appropriate information when they need it. 

I have specialised in this field for almost 20 years and occasionally I still find it difficult to get definitive answers to every query. Where will practitioners find information if the standards are axed? 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society competencies for prescribing are helpful for prescribers in training, and after qualification, but these are competencies, not standards. 

Potential inconsistencies

In the consultation, the NMC asks if governance and policy decisions about safe management of medicines should be made by organisations who deliver care and services to people and patients. 

Most organisations will have governance arrangements in place, but they – and inspection bodies such as the Care Quality Commission – look at professional standards as well. At present, we have one set of standards provided by our professional regulator, but if these are withdrawn we may see differing standards from employer to employer.

With a lack of professional standards and the onus put on employers, nurses will be put at risk and there will be an increased risk to patients and maybe some smaller or less scrupulous employers may ‘bend’ the rules to suit their own needs. 

The current NMC standards for both prescribers and medicines management do need updating, but we need to be extremely cautious about scrapping them completely.

To have your say on the consultation, which closes on September 12, click here

Matt Griffiths is visiting professor of prescribing and medicines management at Birmingham City University 

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