After a decade in the making the bill that removes legal barriers that have hindered nurse practitioner and nurse practice was finally passed by parliament this week.
Nurse leaders are celebrating the passing of the long-awaited omnibus bill which chief nursing officer Jane O'Malley says is the "culmination of years of work" from the nursing sector, the Ministry of Health and other agencies
However she added there was still further work to be done, with the dates for the coming into force of amendments to the eight Acts involved to be set by Order in Council.
The Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Bill remove references to 'doctors' or 'medical practitioners' in eight acts where nurse practitioners and other health practitioners are now qualified to carry out those roles. For example the bill will remove the current situation where NPs can sign ACC forms and sickness benefit forms but weren't able to sign a certificate for ordinary sick leave from work.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the new legislation would help make the best use of the skills of the health workforce and allow more patients to be able to receive more timely convenient care closer to home.
“The legislation also allows nurse practitioners, specialist registered nurse prescribers and pharmacist prescribers working in addiction services to prescribe controlled drugs to treat addiction.
“Also, currently only a doctor can sign your medical certificate for sick leave, in future the practice nurse or physiotherapist will be able to do this.”
Jane Jeffcoat, the outgoing chair of Nurse Practitioners New Zealand (NPNZ), said passing of the bill was 'fabulous' and all involved deserved kudos.
Former NPNZ chair Dr Michal Boyd said the passing of the bill and other recent positive moves had left her feeling more optimistic than ever before about the NP role now and in the future in New Zealand.
Both nurse practitioners said being part of the NPNZ group that addressed the Parliamentary Health Select Committee on the potential impact of the bill on their work had been a very positive experience. They were in turn gratified to hear MPs speak positively about the NP role during the subsequent parliamentary debates.
"The bottom line is that (the bill) allows us to work to the full potential of our scope," said Boyd. She said for example, as a gerontology NP working in residential care, she would now be able to sign death certificates for older people she had cared for throughout their time in facility without needing to call in a GP colleague.
Jeffcoat said while very happy the bill was passed NPNZ would still be working to help ensure the implementation went smoothly and consistently across the country and all health providers
Lobbying began more than a decade ago by nurse leaders to identify and remove a range of legislative barriers to nurse practitioners' practice and formal work began back in 2005 to go through legislation with a fine tooth comb to find references to "doctors" or "medical practitioners" which might now be carried out by other suitably qualified health practitioners.
The resulting bill passed its third reading in Parliament on November 1 and will now be referred to royal assent after which a date will be set by order in council for when each of the eight amendment acts will come into force. All will be enacted within two years of Royal Assent being granted.
O'Malley said the Ministry would be working internally and with other agencies throughout the Order in Council process. She said it expected this could take a minimum of a year as it had to be sure that all of the systems were in place to implement the legislative change.
Roles changed under the new legislation include:
- Signing death certificates
- Taking blood specimens from drink drivers
- Declaring people unfit to drive
- Prescribing controlled drugs
- Signing sick leave certificates
The eight amendment bills to be enacted are:
- Accident Compensation Amendment Bill (No 2)
- Burial and Cremation Amendment Bill
- Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 2) Holidays Amendment Bill (No 2)
- Holidays Amendment Bill (No 2)
- Land Transport Amendment Bill (No 3)
- Medicines Amendment Bill
- Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Amendment Bill Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 2)
- Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 2)