Health minister Anne Milton has pledged to protect frontline nurses and give them more control over decisions about patient care.
In her first interview with Nursing Times since becoming a health minister, Ms Milton acknowledged the pressures faced by nurses in the current economic climate but said the coalition government was committed to ensuring the frontline workforce stayed “intact”.
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“This is a very difficult time for nurses and I hugely appreciate how it feels trying to deliver care against this very grim economic background,” the former nurse said. “There has been a huge rise in bureaucrats in the NHS and we want to protect frontline jobs. But I know nurses feel very anxious.”
She offered her support for clinical nurse specialists, whose roles have come under increased scrutiny over recent months as managers seek to cut costs. Ms Milton said clinical nurse specialists “improve quality and standards and offer good value for money”.
“But what is important, particularly in light of the financial constraints, is that they demonstrate this to those who are commissioning services and planning the workforce.”
Handing back decision making power to clinical staff has been the cornerstone of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans for reforming the NHS.
Ms Milton said the government is currently reviewing evidence on the state of the nursing profession to help inform a fresh consultation on its future. She said the former government’s Prime Minister’s Commission on Nursing and Midwifery report was in the “melting pot” of evidence being looked at.
Ms Milton had previously criticised the commission’s report, saying the proposed introduction of a “pledge” for nurses was an “insult”.
She said last week: “What is overriding is that nurses would like to have more control over decisions, and more opportunity to make decisions about patient care.
“Nurses feel as though they are always being told what to do by managers. They want to see their own clinical judgement being allowed to flourish.”