Supporting the nursing workforce to deliver care for patients with long-term conditions and more complex healthcare needs are among Conservative priorities, Dr Dan Poulter has stated.
The health minister was speaking at an election hustings debate, hosted last month by the Royal College of Nursing at its headquarters in London.
The event was also attended by Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb and Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham. The three politicians faced a range of questions on their election pledges and past political record on nursing and the NHS.
“That’s something that will make a big difference in helping to deliver personalised care”
Dr Poulter pointed to the government’s establishment of workforce planning body Health Education England and the work it had done so far to provide better support for nurses, adding that the Conservative party would in the future continue to invest in training and technology for nurses.
The minister claimed the current government had increased the nursing workforce by 8,500 in the past few years, adding that the Conservative party had committed to training 5,000 extra nurses and allied health professionals and 5,000 more GPs to boost the community workforce.
“That’s something that will make a big difference in helping to deliver that personalised care and greater support to more vulnerable patients and patients with long-term conditions,” he said.
The government had already introduced a new requirement for all student nurses to receive a community placement as part of their training, he added.
Dr Poulter also said that more should be done to encourage healthcare assistants to receive university training to become nurses.
Meanwhile, in response to a question from the audience, he said that the downbanding by trusts of specialist nurse posts was “unacceptable”.
He was also asked about government aims to reduce or cut nurses’ anti-social hours pay via fresh revisions to the Agenda for Change contract.
Dr Poulter said the Conservatives were committed to not cutting NHS staff basic pay, but he did not specify his position on additional payments.
On agency staff costs, he said the Tories had put in place “robust measures” that required trusts to reduce their spend by 50% to secure public investment in the future, and that the party was taking steps to identify a pool of six responsible agencies for temporary staff.
“That’s making sure we give money to trusts to invest in frontline services, permanent frontline staff not agency staff,” he said.
Referring to the estimated £8bn funding gap for the NHS by 2020, Dr Poulter said the Conservatives had a track record for increasing the NHS budget over the course of the current parliament and would ensure the health service received the money it needed for the next.
However, he did not specify exactly how much this would be.