Key messages

  • Nurses providing acute care in a hospital (or other health service) will typically possess Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines in accordance with the conditions of the Health Services Permit (HSP) of the establishment.
  • Nurses and midwives may possess Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines in accordance with specific provisions of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017.
  • For the most part, nurses and midwives are authorised to administer but are not authorised to supply scheduled medicines.

Health Services Permit

Nurses providing acute care will typically possess Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines in accordance with the conditions of the Health Services Permit (HSP), which has been issued to an establishment (for example, hospital or day procedure centre), which authorises  employees to possess Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines for the provision of health services.

Each HSP contains conditions that are specific to the type of health service provided – for example, the conditions for a hospital differ from those of a bush nursing service or an ambulance service.

Nurses and midwives employed at a health service should refer to the Health Services Permit documentation as well as legislative requirements in current Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances legislation (e.g. Regulation 8 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017). The director of pharmacy and/or the director of nursing commonly oversee the management of Schedule 4 and 8 medicines in health services.

Administration versus supply

Nurses and midwives are authorised to possess Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines for administration purposes but are not authorised to supply Schedule 2, 3, 4 or 8 medicines unless their registration has been endorsed to authorise them do so (for example, under a Scheduled Medicines [Rural and Isolated Practice] endorsement), and then only to the extent described or listed within the state jurisdiction.

A nurse or midwife may deliver a person’s own medications (for example, discharge medicines that have been lawfully supplied on prescription for that person) if it is appropriate to do so. A nurse or midwife must not supply hospital ward stock to a patient; this may only be done by an authorised prescriber or pharmacist in the lawful practice of their profession.

Safe and lawful treatment

In addition to the requirement to ensure treatment is lawful, nurses and midwives are required to meet professional standards that are contained in other legislation and that are determined by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

The Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017 contain the majority of regulatory requirements, relating to the manner in which nurses and midwives are authorised to possess and administer scheduled medicines.

This website contains a range of documents, in the section for documents to print or download, which summarise the legislative requirements and issues that relate to all registered nurses and midwives, plus documents that relate only to those nurses and midwives with endorsements to their registrations (see below).

Nurses and midwives

In addition to the preceding documents, which are intended primarily for nurses and midwives, the following documents contain information that relates to multiple categories of health practitioner:

Matters that relate to many health practitioners

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