General legislation about medication
The Medicines Act of 1968 was prompted in part by the consequences of thalidomide in the 1960s. This Act states that only authorised health care practitioners can legally prescribe medicines in the UK.
With the evolvement of health care and the findings of the Crown Reports (1989 and 1992), it had been firmly established that there could be significant benefits to nurses having prescribing rights. These rights were extended initially only to community nurses through the Medicinal Products: Prescription by Nurses Act (1992), then later to nurses and midwives in all aspects of care. More recently it now includes pharmacists, physiotherapists, chiropodists, podiatrists, optometrists and radiographers.
In order to enable nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to prescribe legally, this legislation has had to be extended several times. The Amendments to the Prescription Only Medicines (Human Use) Order (2005) is the most recent change enabling the further development of non medical prescribing.
The Medicines Act (1968) also provides all prescribers with a framework for what medicines require a prescription, and which medicines can be available to the public without a prescription and under what circumstances. It outlines three different categories of medicine.
Proceed to Self assessment 1: Categories of medicines