Women across Australia are set to have easier access to medical abortions under landmark changes that will remove restrictions on health professionals, including nurse practitioners, doctors, and pharmacists, prescribing, and dispensing, termination pills.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration decision means that, from 1 August, doctors and pharmacists will no longer be required to register and be certified to prescribe and dispense the termination pill – known as MS-2 Step (mifepristone and misoprostol). This includes removing the requirement for GPs to undertake mandatory training and registration every three years.
As part of the changes, as recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, nurse practitioners will also be subsidised to prescribe MS-2 Step on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Announcing the major regulatory developments yesterday, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, said the removal of red tape would improve access to healthcare.
“We know that women experience structural barriers trying to access the healthcare that they need, particularly in regional and rural areas. That’s why it’s so important that all health practitioners can perform the care that they are already trained to provide,” she said.
“These changes recognise the importance of health practitioners that women see regularly – their GP, their nurse practitioner and their community pharmacist.”
Australian College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) President Melanie Dunstan, welcomed the removal of barriers to healthcare access.
“Australian women will now have increased access to early pregnancy termination, and the choice for a nurse practitioner to provide this care,” she said.
“As a Nurse Practitioner who has worked in sexual and women’s health including in rural and remote areas, this has been one of my big frustrations of not being able to provide comprehensive care and I understand the implications that this reform will have.”
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) also supported the TGA’s decision.
“Allowing highly-qualified NPs to prescribe MS-2 Step on the PBS will go a long way in removing some of the barriers that exist for women, particularly in rural and remote areas,” the ANMF said in a statement.
“This reform will enable NPs to work to their full scope of practice and the prescription of MS-2 Step by NPs will be subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
“Nurses and midwives provide care across all reproductive healthcare services and, as female dominated professions, often have direct experience of the enablers and barriers to universal access to sexual and reproductive health services for women.”