The weeks of listening to health professionals during the government’s self-imposed “pause” in the NHS reforms are, it seems, promising to bear fruit for nurses.
Finally, the government is starting to wake up to the fact that nurses provide the greatest amount of patient care, will influence patient experience and outcomes and should therefore have a significant influence over how NHS money is spent.
The signs have been there for some time - health secretary Andrew Lansley and prime minister David Cameron began talking about “clinical commissioning” instead of “GP commissioning” at media events, and the inclusion of nurses in the listening exercise all pointed to a rethink around nurses’ roles.
But then on Tuesday last week, Mr Cameron finally promised that nurses would have a role in commissioning and it is not unreasonable to believe the government may make having a nurse on boards mandatory. Let’s hope so. After all, our A Seat on The Board Campaign has been fighting for this since last autumn.
The RCN backs our campaign and although some nurses are sceptical about the importance of a seat, we believe it is a strong start. Some fear it is tokenism and that one nurse will not be able to influence decisions. But, nurses have manoeuvred their way onto the radar of those crafting the reforms thanks to their fighting spirit (the RCN Congress vote of no confidence), and debating prowess during the listening exercise. Having a seat on the board means nursing’s voice will be heard for the benefit of patients.
But let’s think about other allied health professionals. I recently met a journalist from a pharmacy journal, and she talked of how desperately her readers wanted to be involved in commissioning. They may get that wish, but so far have not been mentioned in dispatches. So let’s count our blessings. For us, it may not be time to pop the corks, but maybe it’s time for a tiny cheer.
Sign our A Seat on the Board campaign at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/seatontheboard/