Tuesday, 9 June 2020
Department of Health
421. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to extend nurse prescribing to include opioid substitution therapies such as methadone in order to alleviate pressure on services arising from Covid-19; if the issue is being examined as part of the 2021 review of the National Nurse and Midwife Medicinal Product Prescribing Policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10348/20]
During the COVID-19 crisis, the HSE prioritised the delivery of Opioid Substitution Therapies (OST) so that everybody on the waiting list could commence appropriate treatment. The Executive developed guidance on the commencement and maintenance of treatment and on the safe supply of medicines during COVID-19. This included the delivery of OST to individuals who were in self-isolation or cocooning. In April 2020, an additional 514 people were in receipt of OST compared with January 2020.
In the last quarter of 2019, my Department commenced an evaluation process of the benefits or otherwise of introducing nurse prescribing of OST. A number of stakeholder consultations have taken place. This work was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will be resumed as soon as possible.
Any extension of nurse prescribing to include opioid substitutes would require changes to Schedule 8 of The Misuse of Drugs Regulations, 2017 and this process would have to be completed before this extended scope could be considered as part of a review of The National Nurse and Midwife Medicinal Product Prescribing Policy by the HSE.