A new national day to celebrate the role of nurses would be introduced in England under a Conservative government, Nursing Times has learnt.
The Conservative health team is currently developing consultation plans on nursing which are due to be published later this year.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley told Nursing Times that included in these plans to designate a specific day to get the message across that the modern role of nursing ‘extends much further’ than the public probably realises.
The Conservatives have yet to decide on a date for the event, which is intended to have a higher public profile than the existing International Nurses Day on 12 May. It would be modelled on Certified Nurse’s Day in the US, which was established four years ago and occurs on 19 March – the birthday of US nurse pioneer Margretta Madden Styles.
Mr Lansley said he thought the public had a clear idea of what they expected in terms of traditional nurse standards, such as infection control, nutrition and dignity. However he said the public had not realised the need to recast the roles of nursing to reflect its modern role - for example, specialist nurses and nurse prescribers.
‘I don’t think the public know much about this,’ he said. ‘The message that we need to get across is not just that nurses are important, it’s we are delivering the kind of care that you the public expect but also that we are achieving extended roles and professionalism with specialised care on a scale which most of the public have, as yet, no idea,’ he said.
Mr Lansley said the US healthcare system was similar to the UK’s in that it had a higher proportion of nurses to doctors than countries such as France. But he said that the public in the US was far more aware of the high status of nurses as professionals. ‘They take charge of care and the public recognise this,’ he said.