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Dr Karen Stenner Lecturer University of Surrey discusses Nurse prescribing for pain

Dr Karen Stenner Lecturer University of Surrey discusses Non medical prescribing for pain at today’s conference. In her presentation Karen discussed:

  • non medical prescribing for pain: where are we now?
  • what are nurses prescribing for pain?
  • prescribing for post-operative pain, acute pain, chronic pain and long term conditions, cancer pain, crossover pain
  • the range of pain management prescribed
  • improving pain outcomes
  • issues around prescribing of controlled drugs


Karen stated that pain is one of the most commonest areas for nurse prescribing.  "There are many potential benefits to non medical prescribing for pain". The benefits of prescribing for pain including faster access to treatment, safe and appropriate prescribing particularly with regard to controlled drugs, and benefits for nurses in terms of job satisfaction, gaining knowledge through prescribing and increased credibility and confidence. Karen said "undertaking prescribing can escalate your learning with regard to medications". Karen also emphasised the additional benefits in terms of the nurses role in educating patients. 

The delegates today were mainly nurses, the majority of which were prescribing for pain in end of life care, physiotherapists were also present as delegates today. 

Dr Karen Stenner’s full presentation is available for download at the end of this page.


Dr Karen Stenner’s presentation provides an overview of the research undertaken by the author on non-medical prescribing for pain in the UK. Prior to this work, little was known about the profiles or prescribing practices of nurses and other non-medical prescribers involved in treating pain. Drawing on findings from surveys1,2,3 and qualitative work4, the talk will indicate the extent to which non-medical prescribers are involved in prescribing medications for pain, the settings in which they work and the types of medications prescribed. It will also summarise the benefits reported by nurses who prescribe pain medication and identify issues raised.   

Key messages

  • Nearly half of all nurse prescribers surveyed are involved in prescribing for pain
  • Non-medical prescribers who prescribe for pain work in a wide range of service areas, including first contact, primary care and specialist pain services
  • Most nurses surveyed estimated that they prescribe between 1 and 10 items for pain per week, however pain specialist nurses prescribe on average 19 items per week
  • A majority prescribe for patients with acute pain and most commonly prescribe NSAIDs
  • Opioid analgesics are more often prescribed by specialist pain nurses with high levels of training and experience
  • There are ongoing training needs for NMPs who prescribe for pain

In her presentation Dr Karen Stenner stated:

“40% of UK nurses prescribe pain medication (Courtenay & Gordon 2009)”

“Pain is one of the top prescribing areas that nurses take up once qualified as a nurse prescriber (Latter et al 2010)”

“97.9% of prescriptions dispensed in the community are written by GPs. 2.1% by non-medical prescribers. The number of prescriptions issued by nurses increased by 10.9% since 2013”

“Benefits of prescribing for pain - Faster access to treatment and Safe and appropriate prescribing”

“Benefits to Nurses - Job satisfaction, Gaining knowledge through prescribing and Increased credibility and confidence”

“94% said prescribing increased their ability to promote evidence-based practice in pain treatment, 98% provided training or education (to: nurses, doctors, pharmacists, AHPs, students), 81% involved in developing local guidance on pain prescribing and 60% informed trust formulary or Drugs & Therapeutics Committees”

“Pain is one of the most common conditions for which NMPs prescribe”

“NMPs from a range of services and settings prescribe pain medication”

“Education and training: access to CPD is essential for safe and effective prescribing and a strong opioid analgesics are more likely to be prescribed by pain nurses with specialist training”

“There are many potential benefits to prescribing for pain including:  improving communication with patients about pain medication, patient involvement and patient-centred care”

“Need for an update on prescribing patterns since the lifting of restrictions on prescribing of controlled drugs”

Dr Karen Stenner’s Biography:

Karen Stenner (PhD, BSc) is a lecturer in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK. Her research has explored the use of prescribing by nurses and other health care professionals with a focus on developments around prescribing for pain and long term conditions. She is interested in advancing practice and the role of non-medical prescribing in improving health service delivery. Karen is currently working on a Department of Health funded evaluation of physiotherapist and podiatrist independent prescribing, a collaborative project with the University of Brighton.

Future events of interest:

Nurse Prescribing
Thursday 3 December 2015 
Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester

Nurse Prescribing for Wound Care
Tuesday 19 January 2016 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Nurse Prescribing for Pain
Wednesday 3 February 2016 
Colmore Gate Conference Centre, Birmingham

Download: Dr Karen Stenner"s full presentation

22 September 2015


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