The government may seek to involve nurses in commissioning by setting up local “clinical cabinets” to advise GP consortia, it has emerged.
The idea has been suggested by the NHS Future Forum group, which has been asked by prime minister David Cameron to propose “improvements” to the government’s controversial Health Bill.
Current proposals have been heavily criticised because there is no requirement for nurses or other professionals to sit on the board of the GP-led commissioning consortia that are set to take over the majority of NHS spending decisions from primary care trusts. A Nursing Times investigation last month found fewer than a third of emerging consortia had nurses in decision making positions.
Few details have been given about how the cabinets would work but NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said at a conference earlier this month they would be a “forum”, bringing together primary care clinicians and others. He said there could be 30-50 of them.
Sir Bruce said their role had not been decided but it could include a say on whether local GP consortia were ready to take over commissioning. It is unclear if the cabinets will just be advisory and voluntary or have their own powers.
Royal College of Nursing policy director Howard Catton said the “clinical cabinet” groups could be helpful but were not a substitute for nurses having a place on consortia boards.
He said: “Clinical cabinets could make a significant contribution, for example being able to sign off commissioning plans. But that itself is not going to satisfy our membership – there has to be nursing input at the strategic level [as well].”
Earlier this month RCN director of nursing Janet Davies accused some GPs involved in setting up commissioning groups of “nepotism”, claiming they have appointed their practice nurse wives to decision-making posts. She called for consortia instead to appoint experienced senior nurses with the skills needed for commissioning.
NHS East Midlands medical director Kathy McClean, one of the co-chairs of the Future Forum review, told Nursing Times she was looking at how nurses and others “feed into the commissioning process”, but declined to say what she planned to recommend.
Nursing Times’ Seat on the Board campaign is calling for all consortia to have a nurse on their board.