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Scotland to scrap generic community nurse plans

The Scottish government is to scrap controversial plans to create a generic community nurse role following consultations with nursing unions.

Proposals in the Labour/Liberal Democrat government’s Review of Nursing in the Community in 2006 called for a generic community health nurse role to replace existing specialists. It proposed the role be tested in four regions: NHS Borders; Highland; Lothian; and Tayside.  

However, the incumbent Scottish National Party government has abandoned the plans, which were heavily opposed by unions.

A letter from Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon to unions states that she prefers a ‘team-based’ approach to community nursing.

Ms Sturgeon made the decision after a meeting with RCN Scotland representatives last week.

In the letter, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘The meeting provided greater clarity on a common approach to a way forward which will have the key aim of modernising community nursing services and to ensure the provision of high-quality and effective care within a team-based approach in Scotland.’

Now a board is to be created to determine the future shape of community nursing in Scotland.

Professor Margaret Smith, dean of Dundee University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, has been invited to chair the board, which will meet for the first time in August. Its remit and membership are currently being decided.

Theresa Fyffe, director of RCN Scotland, said: ‘In consultation with our members and a wide range of health professionals, RCN Scotland developed a vision for a sustainable future for community nursing.

‘We will now use this vision to influence the way forward, working in partnership with the Scottish government and other unions to ensure that a patient-centred approach is at the heart of any changes to community nursing services in Scotland.’

The move to abolish the generic community nurse role coincides with a recent Scottish parliament health and sport committee report warning that ‘catastrophic damage’ to health visitor services was having serious implications for children’s mental well-being.

The committee’s inquiry into child and adolescent mental health and well-being found disturbing evidence that under-5s were not being monitored for mental well-being by statutory services.

It said that a drastic drop in health visitor numbers meant that babies were often no longer seen by a health visitor after eight weeks, with the knock-on effect that mental health problems in the under-five age group were often going unnoticed.

The report said that health visitors played a crucial role in identifying mental health problems in very young children.

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