Clinical commissioning groups have been told by the Department of Health to appoint experienced nurse leaders to their boards in an apparent attempt to head off attempts by GPs to view the position as a token gesture.
CCGs will take over the majority of NHS spending from April next year and will be led by GPs. Following calls from Nursing Times and the Royal College of Nursing, the government has said each group must have at least one nurse sitting on its board.
However, the RCN has warned that CCGs have seen choosing relatively inexperienced and unqualified nurses, for example someone working at one of their practices.
Nursing Times has seen Department of Health guidance, sent to primary care trusts in recent weeks, stipulating minimum requirements for the nurse on the board.
It said these nurses must have “a high level of professional expertise and knowledge; [being] competent, confident and willing to give an independent strategic clinical view”. They must also “be able to bring detailed insights… into discussions regarding service re-design, clinical pathways and system reform”.
It addition, it said nurses on the board must “be highly regarded as a clinical leader, probably across more than one clinical discipline and/or specialty”, which appears to exclude less experienced nurses that have only worked in primary care.
Meanwhile, the Greater Manchester PCT cluster has developed a job description for nurses on the board of CCGs which sets an even higher bar. It said they must have “high-level awareness of ‘board-level’ working” and leadership and governance skills, noting that the role was a “senior clinical leadership position that will hold executive accountability”.
Greater Manchester chief nurse Hilary Garratt told Nursing Times the cluster wanted to ensure the nurses had “board level competencies”.
She said she wanted assurance they were ready to lead oversight of care quality in their area and build relationships beyond the CCG. She said: “They need to be acting and working in the community of nursing leaders, and need to deliver and work alongside the local commissioning board lead nurse.”
The cluster has also offered to lead the appointment process for nurses alongside GPs. The offer has been taken up by the majority of the cluster’s 12 CCGs.
Cluster chief executive Mike Burrows said CCGs would be expected to deal with serious safety and quality issues in their area. He said: “The nurse will have responsibility for how we tackle the quality issues.”