Nurses and pharmacists are now able to prescribe a much wider range of drugs in a government move to speed up patient treatment.
Under the plan, nurses and pharmacists will be able to undertake extra training to prescribe medicines for common illnesses ranging from acne to tonsillitis.
Nurses, some of whom run their own specialist clinics, will also be able to prescribe for long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
Nurses can already prescribe more than 180 prescription-only medicines while pharmacists have been able to prescribe in partnership with doctors since 2003.
But now those powers have been widened with the aim of giving patients more choice about where and from whom they get their prescriptions.
Nurses and pharmacists will be able to take on the new role after successfully finishing a post-graduate prescribing training course. Once trained, they will be required to keep their skills up to date.
Health chiefs say the move will take pressure off GPs, allowing them to focus on more complex cases.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the move was a ‘major advance’ in improving accessibility.
‘Healthcare professionals are increasingly taking on new roles and responsibilities, enabling them to utilise their skills in the best possible way. This is good news for patients and good news for health care professionals.’ she said.
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at the Department of Health, Dr Keith Ridge, said: ‘For pharmacists, this is the dawn of a new era. It will help transform the public’s perception of pharmacy and enable pharmacists to strengthen the services they deliver to patients.
‘Medicines are the most common treatment used in the care of patients and now that trained nurses and pharmacists as well as doctors can prescribe a full range, it will be much easier for patients to get the medicines they need, when they need them.’