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Nurses need greater referral powers to cope with growth in long term conditions

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Nurses must be “enabled” to make direct referrals to other health professionals and services in order to help the NHS cope with the growing number of patients with long term conditions.

The final report of the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery – titled Front Line Care – says that nurses are “centre stage to handle the huge and growing need for skilled care” in caring for people with long term conditions.

As a result the redesign of NHS services – from more hospital care to community based care, and the increased integration of health and social care – must recognise the nursing profession’s leading role in treating this groups of patients, so that their potential contribution is maximised.

The report says: “Nurses must be enabled to make direct referrals to other professionals and agencies, and all barriers that prevent them from utilizing their full range of capacities and competencies must be removed.”

It adds: “Nurses must be properly equipped and supported to take on new roles as lead professionals, care coordinators and specialist clinicians.

“The proportion of nurses able to work outside hospitals should rise much faster; pre-registration courses should have a strong focus on long-term conditions; and new large-scale bridging programmes should equip staff with the necessary competences and the ability to work flexibly across settings and organizational boundaries.”

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