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Nurse workforce crucial to success of planned over-40s health checks

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Ensuring there are enough nurses with the right skills in place must be a key priority for ministers if the government’s plan to provide health checks for the over-40s is to succeed, the RCN has warned.

College representatives said they would be at the forefront of meetings over the next 12 months to iron out potential workforce problems – ahead of the 2009 launch of the government’s vascular screening programme, Putting Prevention First.

The programme, which was outlined last week, plans to test three million patients – between the ages of 40 and 75 – each year at five-year intervals to assess their risk for heart and kidney disease, stroke and diabetes.

It will cost around £250m each year to pay for the staff and tests to deliver the programme, which the Department of Health predicts will save 2,000 lives each year.

Predominantly, the work will fall to practice nurses and HCAs across a variety of community settings, according to the government’s plan.

Nurses will also deliver reports to every person tested, setting out their level of risk and what can be done to reduce it. The DH claims it will amount to only seven extra appointments per surgery each week.

Janet Davies, RCN director of nursing and service delivery, said: ‘We’re most interested in making sure there are enough resources and there are the right nurses with the right skills. Getting the workforce right is a priority and it is key the training is provided.’

Ms Davies added: ‘It’s important to try and influence people and provide them with information, which nurses are excellent at. We want to be as involved as possible in what we see as an intervention with the power to save lives and we are committed to smooth the way for nurses to help achieve this.’

Latest data from the NHS Information Centre reveals that there were 14,554 practice nurses in 2007 – a 44% increase on 1997.

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