Nurses are set to play a greater role in public health with a series of changes outlined in the government’s new white paper published today.
Shifting responsibility from primary care trusts to local authorities will also see public health teams, including nurses, shift to new roles.
In addition the policy paper says that by 2015 the government intends to double the number of families reached through the family nurse partnership (FNP) programme and increase health visitor numbers.
It suggests that these measures will be part of improving children’s health and giving them the “best start in life.”
The white paper says: “We will also do more to improve the outcomes of those families in need of more intensive support by doubling the capacity of the FNP programme and supporting health visitors to work with families needing additional early intervention.
“The first phase of single community budgets for families with complex needs will enable a focus on prevention through locally co-ordinated support for families with multiple problems.”
The document also envisages a greater role for the school nursing system to develop health reviews at school entry and “key transitions, managing pupils’ wellbeing, medical and long-term condition needs and developing schools as health-promoting environments.”
The Department of Health said it is “developing a new vision for school nurses, reflecting their broad public health role in the school community.”
As NHS commissioners, GP consortia, the white paper says, will have responsibility to work with: “local authorities and a diverse range of clinicians, including nurses, midwives, health visitors, allied health professionals, pharmacists and dentists, to improve the health of the local population as a whole.”
General secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Peter Carter broadly welcomed the government’s white paper.
He said: “Nursing staff play a fundamental role in preventing unhealthy lifestyles developing, for example they provide sex education in schools, advice on healthy eating, manage smoking cessation clinics, and support the health of the working population.
“We have already welcomed the government’s commitment to put clinicians at the heart of decision-making in the NHS and we look forward to ensuring that nursing staff are pivotal in delivering the government’s vision.
“We welcome the commitment to ring-fence public health spending but we recognise that all public sector bodies are going through times of financial challenge. To ensure our public health service is fit for the future we must make sure that under a new system the money does not get swallowed up by other concerns – and we need more detail on this.”