National Survey of Nurse Prescribing in Mental Health Services; a follow up six years on.

 Dobel-Ober D. and Brimblecombe N (2016)

Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing

DOI: 10.1111/jpm.12329

Accessible summary

What is known on the subject?

•Nurse prescribing allows nurses, after specific training, to prescribe medications under certain conditions. This article describes the third in a series of surveys of mental health services in England to understand how nurse prescribing is being used across the country.

•While there is research evidence that shows nurse prescribing to be as safe as prescribing by doctors and that service users typically find it at least as acceptable, there is a lack of detailed evidence about current forms of nurse prescribing practice specifically in mental health services.

What this paper adds to existing knowledge?

•The survey found that the number of nurse prescribers has increased over the last few years. Nurse prescribers are increasingly prescribing in a form (‘independent prescribing’) that makes them independently responsible for prescribing decisions without working to a plan laid out by a doctor. Mental health organisations are increasingly planning in a systematic way how to identify, train and ensure good practice in nurse prescribing.

•This study demonstrates that growth in numbers of nurse prescribers can take place over an extended time period. The study demonstrates that the exact model of nurse prescribing will influence its applicability in different types of service.

What are the implications for practice?

•Nurse prescribing is becoming increasingly common in mental health services, changing roles for nurses and the experience of services for service users. However, there is great variation between organisations in this regard.

•Research is needed regarding the outcomes and any risks of independent nurse prescribing specifically in mental health compared to medical prescribing.




This paper reports the latest in a series of national surveys of nurse prescribing in mental health organizations in England.


To describe and understand changes and trends in the use of nurse prescribing nationally.


Postal survey to all 53 National Health Service Mental Health Trusts (publicly funded provider organizations); 75% responded (n = 40).


Numbers of nurse prescribers (NPs) have grown significantly in the last 6 years, although remain a small percentage of the total Mental Health Nursing workforce. Most NPs are in community services, particularly community mental health teams and drug/alcohol services. Independent prescribing has now become the most common form of NP, replacing supplementary prescribing.


Overall growth in numbers of NPs has continued, but remains marked by large variance in numbers between organizations. The study evidences that the particular form of nurse prescribing will influence its applicability in different clinical settings and that sustained increase over time in NP numbers is feasible at a national level, even with local variation in uptake.

Implications for practice

Nurse prescribing has become well embedded in many organizations although large-scale adoption may be hindered by the lack of a definitive evidence base as to outcomes compared with those from medical prescribing

This the accessible summary and abstract of the Nurse Prescribing Survey article that arose from the Forum sponsoring the survey.

To access the full article please contact, Neil Brimblecombe, Director of Nursing, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust