Senior nurses have questioned calls for community nurses to set themselves up as “advisory units” to the GP groups that will be commissioning NHS services from 2013.
Speaking last week at a Primary Care Trust Network conference in London, Department of Health managing director of commissioning and development Dame Barbara Hakin said: “GPs will understand their local population’s needs but for community services, for example, the people who know most about what works really well will be the people who work in them.
“I’d love to see some instances where, perhaps, community nurses were able, as well as delivering the service, to put themselves in the position to provide expertise and be a commissioning support unit.”
However, Queen’s Nursing Institute director Rosemary Cook said nurses should have a “seat at the table” of GP commissioning consortia, not merely an advisory role.
She said: “It’s obviously good that people are recognising the need for community nursing input and ideas - it’s essential. Ideally a seat at the table would be a good way to do it.”
In addition, she warned that hard pressed community teams had “no extra time for extra curricular activities” such as forming commissioning advisory units.
“Keen as they would be to have their say, they couldn’t do it,” she said. “GPs would recognise this.”
Dame Barbara’s comments are part of the Department of Health’s efforts to highlight the role of other professions as well as GPs in commissioning, following concerns from organisations such as the Royal College of Physicians.
Dr Anil Mehta, clinical director of the Redbridge Polysystem - a GP commissioning pilot programme in east London - said: “GPs orchestrate it but nurses are absolutely vital to the commissioning process.”