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Can PCT board nurses count on you?

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VOL: 97, ISSUE: 25, PAGE NO: 33

Ami David MSc RGN RM DN DNT RNT

The first British general election of the 21st century was described by many as boring. The national press repeatedly described the campaigns of all political leaders as dreary and dull.

The first British general election of the 21st century was described by many as boring. The national press repeatedly described the campaigns of all political leaders as dreary and dull.

Another election process currently under way in many parts of Britain has huge significance for nursing yet remains largely ignored. I refer, of course, to the election and re-election of local nurses to primary care trust (PCT) boards. As with the general election, there is apathy among nurse voters.

There are clear parallels between the response of voters in the general election and that of most nurses working in PCTs. We now know that 40% of the British electorate did not bother to vote this year. In the inevitable post-election analysis these abstentions have been explained as sheer apathy by some and as a consequence of voters believing that the outcome was a foregone conclusion by others.

In the PCT board nurse election each nurse/health visitor's vote certainly counts, but are we really interested? Unlike the general election, I believe our apathy and disinterest stems largely from our ignorance of the role of nurse board members and their potential power to influence key health care decisions.

In any election we tend to judge candidates on past deeds, but are we really clear about local PCT board nurses' achievements? Have we ensured that they had the right information to 'bat' on behalf of the patients we care for? I suspect not.

PCT board nurses and allied health professionals (AHPs) often beaver away with little support from the rest of us. Nurses have never really been good at taking an interest in the wider issues that affect health and health care delivery. But being brilliant at one-to-one nurse-patient interventions is not enough. Political astuteness and an awareness of the wider health issues should be every nurse's business if we are to be real advocates for our patients. Such a knowledge base is essential for effective clinical leadership.

Nurses on PCT boards should be elected on their record and ability to take on equal status and responsibility alongside GP board members. We, the voters, hold the key to ensuring that the right nurses are in the driving seats.

Witnessing the growing yet sophisticated approach to commissioning and the delivery of local services, we should recognise that this maturity did not develop overnight. The growth, status and confidence of board nurses is the product of sheer hard work. It is now up to us, other nurses, to ensure that they feel supported and informed.

If you have never attended a board meeting or do not know which nurse/AHP is on your local board, it is time you did. A national journalist declared that Britain's verdict on the general election was one loud snore. Let's not make nurse elections to PCTs a similarly sleepy experience.

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