What is a prescriber?

A prescriber is a healthcare professional who can prescribe (write an order for) medicines.

Prescribers are healthcare professionals trained and licenced to prescribe medicines. In New Zealand there are several different types of prescriber.

Who are the different types of prescribers?

The most well known type of prescriber is a doctor. However, there are other health professionals who can also prescribe certain medicines once they have completed the necessary post-graduate qualifications and training, and have been registered by their professional council. These include:

  • nurse practitioners
  • midwifes
  • some nurse prescribers
  • dentists
  • pharmacists
  • optometrists
  • dietitians.

Image credit: Canva

Can all prescribers prescribe all medicines?

No, the medicines health care professionals can prescribe depends on their registration as a prescriber, and their scope or area of practice. 

There are 2 categories of prescriber in New Zealand:

  • Authorised prescribers can independently prescribe any medicine that relates to their area of practice. This group includes nurse practitioners, optometrists, dentists, medical practitioners and registered midwives. 
  • Designated prescribers can only prescribe from a list of medicines published by the Director-General of Health. They are expected to prescribe in consultation with, and supervised by, an authorised prescriber. This group includes pharmacist, dietitian and registered nurse prescribers. 

After becoming a prescriber, ongoing training is compulsory so prescribers can continue to work safely. Employers also have a responsibility to ensure prescribers undertake the relevant training and development, so their knowledge and skills remain up to date.

Why do healthcare professionals other than doctors prescribe?

The New Zealand population is growing, and it's also aging, so there is increasing demand for health services. There aren't enough doctors in the country for everyone to be able to access medical care and medicines when needed. Enabling non-medical healthcare providers to prescribe medicines is one way of meeting this need and making access to medicines easier. 

While medical doctors still provide most prescriptions, the number of prescriptions provided by non-medical prescribers is gradually increasing. After doctors, nurse practitioners provide the next largest number of prescriptions followed by dentists, midwives and pharmacists. Optometrists and dietitians provide the lowest number of prescriptions.  

Learn more

Medical Council of New Zealand NZ
Dental practitioners Dental Council of New Zealand, NZ
Nurse prescribing Nursing Council, NZ
Optometrist prescribers Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board, NZ
Pharmacist Prescribers
 Pharmacy Council, NZ
Dietitian prescribers Dietitians Board, NZ


  1. Use of Unapproved Medicines and Unapproved Use of Medicines Medsafe, N, 2020
  2. Medicines Regulations 1984 New Zealand Legislation, NZ
  3. Medicines Act 1981 New Zealand Legislation, NZ
  4. Health Practitioner Competence Assurance Act New Zealand Legislation, NZ, 2003
  5. Key J, Hoare, K. Nurse prescribing in New Zealand – the difference in levels of prescribing explained NZ Med J. 2020;133(1524):111-118
  6. Raghunandan, R., Marra, C.A., Tordoff, J. et al. Examining non-medical prescribing trends in New Zealand: 2016–2020 BMC Health Serv Res, 2021;21:418
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Janine Bycroft, GP Last reviewed: 25 Aug 2022