The move comes as part of a plan to slash red tape and ease the pressure on hospitals and GP surgeries. It will mean that in future nurses, midwives, physiotherapists and pharmacists will be able to freely dispense cholesterol-busting statins, diabetes medicines and painkillers to the sick.
The move comes as the Tories vow to cut bureaucracy and relieve the burden on buckling A&Es and doctors’ surgeries.
Midwives and paramedics already dispense pain relief while physios can administer anti-inflammatories.
But the range and power of drugs will be expanded in the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, which also aims to revolutionise personalised treatments.
Health Minister Baroness Blackwood said: “I am determined to help everyone who uses our world-leading NHS to access pioneering, cutting-edge treatments as soon as possible.
“The new Bill will give our most treasured institution further freedom to innovate to improve the lives of countless people and protect patient safety to the highest standards.
“It will slash red tape, support uptake of treatments for rare diseases and empower those in the NHS who know what’s best for their patients to deliver the best quality care.”
The legislation, first announced last year in the Queen’s Speech, contains a whole raft of proposals.
Nurses running clinics in GP surgeries to help patients manage blood sugar levels will be given powers to prescribe diabetes drugs like metformin and medicines needed to support associated conditions, like statins for cholesterol.
Pharmacists will be able to run regular reviews to help patients ensure they are taking their medicines properly and amend prescriptions if needed.
And paramedics will be able to visit patients at home to deliver care to keep vulnerable patients out of hospital.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock thinks the move will let the NHS make the best use of its highly skilled workforce, save patients’ time and reduce unnecessary GP appointments.
But the plan to allow rank-and-file NHS staff to treat patients with drugs previously only administered by senior colleagues is recognition of a health service under severe pressures. A&E departments treated three million more patients in 2019 than five years before, a 14 per cent increase.
In the past year, ambulance services dealt with 400,000 more incidents than in 2018.
There were almost 15,000 ambulance journeys to emergency departments every day, while the number carrying patients with life-threatening conditions rose by 10,000.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Our members predicted this would be the toughest winter on record and they were right.
“These figures represent a cry of despair from a service that is delivering remarkable care to millions of patients under enormous pressure. This is the result of an older, sicker population, more severe flu this winter and years of under-investment.
“What we are seeing in and around emergency departments is only the most visible part of a system trying to cope with unprecedented demand. Many family doctors are simply not able to see patients as quickly or for as long as they need to be seen, community services are short-staffed, and social care services do not have the resources or the staff to manage and support patients at home.”
The bill will also give hospitals new powers to use patients’ tissue and DNA samples to develop personalised treatments for some of the most difficult conditions to treat, like rare cancers and brain tumours.
And it will ensure medical devices, like pacemakers, breast implants and ultrasound imagers, are subject to the highest standards of regulation.
Mr Hancock, who has already delivered a £33.9billion funding boost to the NHS, has promised 50 million more GP appointments every year.
He said he wants to create a “streamlined, internationally competitive” process for approving new drugs and devices to ensure patients get the latest treatments.
The Government said its legislation would focus on “removing unnecessary bureaucracy” for low-risk clinical trials.
Dr Ian Campbell, an NHS GP in Nottingham, said: “Allowing the prescribing of ‘low-risk’ medicines by suitably qualified nursing staff already occurs throughout general practice and is a great success.
“Expanding the service to others can create many more appointments, reducing waiting times, improving patient outcomes and freeing up GPs.”