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Community matrons

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Community matrons were introduced in 2004 as a new type of practitioner who is highly skilled and a specialist in community care and inter-agency working.

They were announced as a part of the Department of Health’s drive to deliver a more efficient and comprehensive service to patients with long-term conditions. If working well, these nurses will help reduce unplanned hospital admissions and support the vulnerable in the community.

The Department of Health wants there to be 3,000 community matrons by March 2007 and they will lead efforts on improving chronic disease management for the estimated 17.5 million people who have such conditions in the UK.

Although they can come from any branch of nursing, it is likely that a district nursing background will be the most common source for these nurses. The role has been welcomed by many as a boost for community nursing, particularly as district nurse and health visitor numbers are dwindling.

Their roles include:
- Working collaboratively with all professions, carers and relatives to understand all aspects of a patient’s physical, emotional and social situation
- Developing a personalised care plan with a patient, carer, relatives and health and social care professionals, based on a full assessment of medical, nursing and care needs
- Regularly monitoring their patient by home visits or telephone
- Initiating action if needed, such as ordering tests or prescribing
- Updating a patient’s medical records, including medicines review
- Liaising with other agencies such as social services and the voluntary and community sectors to mobilise resources when needed
- Teaching carers and relatives to recognise subtle changes in a patient’s condition and to call for help- Securing additional support as needed, such as home care, intermediate care, palliative care teams or geriatricians
- Maintaining contact with the patient if they are admitted to hospital and giving the unit treating the patient the right information to ensure integrated and consistent care.

Unions believe the advent of community matrons will give district nurses the chance to have their work recognised properly, but there are still questions over where they will be come from and how primary care trusts will fill the gaps left behind by people becoming community matrons.

There are also still questions to be answered over who should employ community matrons – PCTs or GPs?

The likes of the BMA have said that the idea will only work if these new practitioners are fully integrated into existing primary care, working in general practice. Doctors are worried about their role in monitoring and managing chronic conditions being encroached upon.

Updated: September 2006

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