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J Health Serv Res Policy. 2012 Jul;17(3):149-56. doi: 10.1258/jhsrp.2012.011090. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

Are nurse and pharmacist independent prescribers making clinically appropriate prescribing decisions? An analysis of consultations.

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Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.



Legislation and health policy enabling nurses and pharmacists to prescribe a comprehensive range of medicines has been in place in the UK since 2006. Our objective was to evaluate the clinical appropriateness of prescribing by these professionals.


A modified version of the Medication Appropriateness Index (MAI) was used by 10 medical, seven pharmacist and three nurse independent raters to evaluate a sample of 100 audio-recorded consultations in which a medicine was prescribed by a nurse or pharmacist. Raters were current prescribers with recognized experience in prescribing. Consultations were recorded in nine clinical practice settings in England.


Raters' analysis indicated that, in the majority of instances, nurses and pharmacists were prescribing clinically appropriately on all of the ten MAI criteria (indication, effectiveness, dosage, directions, practicality, drug-drug interaction, drug-disease interaction, duplication, duration, cost). Highest mean 'inappropriate' ratings were given for correct directions (nurses 12%; pharmacists 11%) and the cost of the drug prescribed (nurses 16% pharmacists 22%). Analysis of raters' qualitative comments identified two main themes: positive views on the overall safety and effectiveness of prescribing episodes; and potential for improvement in nurses' and pharmacists' history-taking, assessment and diagnosis skills.


Nurses and pharmacists are generally making clinically appropriate prescribing decisions. Decisions about the cost of drugs prescribed and assessment and diagnostic skills are areas for quality improvement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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