Background: In the United Kingdom, mental health nurses (MHNs) can independently prescribe medication once they have completed a training course. This study investigated attitudes to mental health nurse prescribing held by psychiatrists and nurses.
Method: 119 MHNs and 82 psychiatrists working in South-East England were randomly sampled. Participants completed a newly created questionnaire. This included individual item statements with 6-point likert scales to test levels of agreement which were summated into 7 subscales.
Results: Psychiatrists had significantly less favourable, albeit generally positive attitudes than MHNs regarding general beliefs (63% vs. 70%, p < 0.001), impact (62% vs. 70%, p < 0.001), uses (60% vs. 71%, p < 0.001), clinical responsibility (69% vs. 62%, p < 0.001) and legal responsibility (71% vs. 64%, p < 0.001). More MHNs than psychiatrists believed that nurse prescribing would be useful in emergency situations for rapid tranquilisation (82% vs. 37%, p < 0.001), and that the consultant psychiatrist should have ultimate clinical responsibility for prescribing by an MHN (42% vs. 28%, p < 0.001). Approximately half of all participants agreed nurse prescribing would create conflict in clinical teams.
Conclusions: The majority of both groups were in favour of mental health nurse prescribing, although significantly more psychiatrists expressed concerns. This may be explained by a perceived change in power balance.