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RCN hits back after GP accuses nurses of 'dumbing down' services


A leading GP has been criticised by the RCN for saying the NHS was ‘dumbing down’ by giving nurses extended roles.

Speaking at a Labour Party conference fringe event last week, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GP committee Dr Richard Vautrey said: “My concern recently is that we seem to be dumbing down services. Nurses have taken on doctors’ roles, healthcare assistants have taken on nurses’ roles, who knows who is going to take on the HCAs’ roles.

“The risk is if you dumb down… because that is potentially a cheaper service, it isn’t necessarily a better service. We need to invest in enough people…in the right places,” he said during a debate on whether there would be enough jobs for clinicians currently in training.

But RCN president Maura Buchanan said she took “exception” to the phrase dumbing down. “Nurses particularly have looked at patient needs and patient care and done some amazing work around developing skills and services. It’s not dumbing down, it’s improving healthcare,” she said.

RCN director of communications Amanda Callaghan added that rather than dumbing down, some parts of the nursing workforce had been skilled up. However, she said HCAs needed to be properly trained and regulated, and there had to be proper staffing levels.

“We know that when we don’t have the right staffing levels and we have an unregulated workforce, then we end up with situations like Mid Staffs and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells,” she added.


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Readers' comments (5)

  • Highly trained nurses providing skilled care within their scope of practice? How on earth is this dumbing down. The nurse who takes on the extended role is more than adequately trained for that role. Junior doctors, particularly in the killing fields of August, would be utterly lost without the expertise and experience of the nursing staff. Perhaps if GPs worked anti-social hours like the rest of us there would be less need for nurses to take on their roles.

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  • Martin Gray

    GPs have probably become the best paid doctors; they certainly earn a great deal more than hospital based registrars and some consultants (those whose specialty does not have any scope for private practice work). However even they employ nurses to do all the main 'boring' tasks like chronic disease management, CVD risk assessment, flu vaccinations, and QoF point work ( OH but that's all the income generation work too isn't it? - strange that!). They don't pay them what they are worth or offer contracts on a par with the NHS either.
    Not only was this speech insulting it was also arrogant and typical of how doctors see nurses as underlings rather than professional colleagues. Perhaps if practice nursing staff went on strike the GPs would soon realise just what a valuable, and willing professional workforce they have at their disposal.

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  • Whilst I dislike the phrase "dumbing down" of nurses, I do agree that nurses are taking on some roles that doctors should be doing. This is because the nurse is often more capable than some junior doctors. Junior doctors now work cushy hours arriving at 9am and clocking off at 5pm, and so the nurse has had to take on some of their roles. Junior doctors do not now get enough experience working these cushy hours, consequently they do not gain the experience and specialist knoweldge required to become a consultant, in a hospital or a GP in the community. Due to the change in roles HCA's are left to do some of the jobs that nurses should be doing, which is not always appropriate. For example giving care and support at end of life to a dying patient and their family. In the GP setting it seems that the practitioner nurses are doing most of the specialised clinics so that the GP's can enjoy a 4day week with WE off and get paid a vast amount of money for it

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  • In my experience it's the practice nurses who do all the chronic disease management clinics and the GP's who do coughs, colds and skin rashes!

    Who exactly is dumbing down!?

    Of course GP's who do less for their bucks is a concern as it undermines the medical profession when nurses do aspects of their roles. GP's in my opinion have always had a low opinion of Practice Nurses. They are taught at medical school that they are the elite profession and to be fair most doctors are from the middle and upper classes so that type of mentality is engrained in to their psyche at an early age.

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  • They can shout and bleat all they like, in the not too distant future nurses will make doctors obsolete as we continue to take over every role they have and do it a lot better, and for cheaper. NHS trusts will ineveitably want more of us, less of them. Now if we could only get a decent union us nurses might be able to fight for better pay and conditions.

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