WDHB prescribers view programme's first year a success

13 December 2013

From left: WDHB non-medical prescribers Fiona Corbin and Delia Williams
The Minister of Health’s decision to widen the group of New Zealand health professionals who can prescribe medicines is paying off say Whanganui District Health Board’s (WDHB) two non-medical prescribers.
As their first year in the role ends, WDHB clinical nurse specialist in diabetes Delia Williams and WDHB/Whanganui Regional Health Network clinical advisory pharmacist Fiona Corbin firmly believe that  empowering the country’s 27 diabetes nurses and 14 registered pharmacist prescribers to write scripts for their patients, when clinically appropriate, is working well for all concerned.
The two say WDHB consultant physician Tom Thompson and Whanganui GP Alan Mangan have played a pivotal role in ensuring Whanganui’s prescriber programme benefits patients, GPs, practice nurses, pharmacists and the many health providers involved in the care of diabetes and heart patients. Late last year, Health Minister Tony Ryall announced more people with diabetes would find it easier to get their medication and, that the total number of diabetes nurse specialists able to prescribe would rise to 27 with more specialist nurses likely to start training during 2013.
It was thought because nurse specialists were already managing the care of many patients with diabetes,  taking on the responsibility for prescribing common diabetes medications (under the guidance of a medical practitioner) would be a natural extension of their role. Ms Williams says with diabetes patient numbers having almost doubled in the last 10 years, it is important to extend the scope and skills of the healthcare team.
“Management of diabetes is a partnership with patients, family and health care professionals. Improving this management is a key health priority,” she says. “Prescribing is a small part of my role, however it can make a significant difference for the patient by simplifying processes, thus influencing the continuity of care.”
Health Workforce New Zealand supported the New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes (NZSSD) to get this year’s nationwide roll-out of prescribers underway. With the help of diabetes nurse specialists the NZSSD has also launched an online educational resource for registered nurses in primary care who are looking after patients with diabetes - www.nzssd.org.nz.

Because the primary care team is generally the first port of call for people wanting screening for diabetes or ongoing review of their self-management, workforce development is vital to maintain knowledge and confidence in managing this complex disease.
In the meantime, Ms Corbin who has been in her role since July of this year can also see the benefits of having pharmacist prescribers provide prescriptions for medically stable patients suffering from cardio-vascular disease.

“Prescribing for these patients in a team environment with other health professionals involved in the patients’ care, releases time for each individual to do what they do best,” Ms Corbin says. “We can focus on the medicines the patient is taking and make sure they are safe and effective. Working in this context reduces the barriers to effective communication which currently exist between different providers working in different places. This is good for patients.”