Nurses, pharmacists prescribing medicine raises concerns

Under the Medical Registration Act, only registered medical practitioners competent and fit to practise medicine are allowed to prescribe medicine and order tests on patients, to protect the health and safety of the public and to maintain public confidence in the medical profession (Group of pharmacists, nurses certified to prescribe medicine; July 3).

With pharmacists and nurses now certified to do the same, will the Medical Registration Act be updated to include them?

Will they also be regulated by the Singapore Medical Council?

What recourse is there for patients if something should go wrong? Will they face the same disciplinary hearing as doctors?

It is also unclear if these pharmacists and nurses follow the independent, protocol-based model or the supplementary prescriptions model.

For instance, are they allowed to diagnose from predefined medication or based on a specific area of medicine? Or can they prescribe only via protocol developed by a team of medical professionals or according to a doctor's plan for a specific patient?

Prescribing is not easy. It is a decision made after careful consideration of all facts and possibilities and after a consultation with a highly educated and responsible professional.

Although one may enhance one's skills, there is also such a thing as respecting boundaries of practice.

Why continue to blur the line? Will patients be the ones to pay if mistakes arise?

Let's focus on what each profession does best. Doctors diagnose and prescribe; pharmacists dispense, modify and monitor pharmaceutical therapy as well as act as a gatekeeper between patients and harmful drug interactions; and nurses are experts in administration and delivering care to patients.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'Nurses, pharmacists prescribing medicine raises concerns'. Print Edition | Subscribe