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RCN chief warns health inequalities will worsen if nurses left out of health bill

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Health inequalities and variations in NHS care quality could worsen if the role of nurses in GP consortia commissioning is not written into the Health and Social Care Bill 2011, the head of the Royal College of Nursing warned MPs this week.

Speaking at a Commons health committee inquiry into commissioning, RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter called for nurses’ role in commissioning to be mentioned in the bill and said making it mandatory for a nurse to have a seat on the board of every GP consortia would ensure this took place.

“Currently there is a patchwork [of provision] in the NHS. What we also know is that under the previous government the heath divide actually got wider and that [not writing in nurses’ role in commissioning into the bill] would increase the likelihood of that happening,” he said.

Mr Carter explained that what the college did not want to see was “huge differences” between the performance of different consortia on commissioning and this was why nursing involvement needed to be embedded into statute.

He defended his strong stance on the issue arguing that health secretary Andrew Lansley had defined GPs’ role in the bill and there was no reason why he also could not do the same for nurses.

“In terms of the fragmentation of services and the gap in health inequalities we don’t want to see that rising. Look, the secretary of state is quite clear he keeps saying no more top down lets have bottom up but in relation to the role of GPs, of whom I’m a great fan of and I don’t mean that in a patronising way. The secretary of state has no problem with prescribing on the role of GPs. We don’t see why he has such a problem with prescribing on the role of nurses.”

Mr Carter said that nurses’ contribution to services and nurse leadership was missing from the bill as a whole and that this needed to be rectified. He said there had been examples in different parts of the UK of where, in the absence of such leadership, there had been a serious negative impact on patient care.

“I do feel that that the bill really underestimates the significant contribution that nursing has to make right through the spectrum and nurses are one of the few disciplines that follow patients right through the pathway and it’s for those reasons, it’s not being nurse centric, that we feel that consortia would be well advised to have nurses at the centre of it. Under the current arrangements it will be very much up to local choice,” he said.

Nursing Times’ A Seat on the Board campaign wants at least one nurse to be included on each consortium board and is asking nurses to sign our petition to the health secretary.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • In the community GPs could not function without practice nurses, community nurses, community matrons, intermediate care services, etc. There are millions of patients who cannot access their GP surgery and it is nurses who largely monitor their condition. In some cases nurses prescribe for patients with long term conditions and gain valuable QOF points for the GPs who might only see the patient every 6 months. It would appear that community nurses are doing in some cases what GPs used to do but are being paid considerably less. And then to add insult to injury they are being told they are not to be included in the new bill. If anyone of any influence is reading this, be warned. We won't take much more of this rubbish.

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  • NHS nurses, are I believe the largest work force in Europe and in the the UK one of the most important. Such a significant body cannot possibly be left out of the new health bill. It simply makes absolutely no sense.

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  • the fight for nurses recognition continues as it always has done, sadly

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