National NHS leaders have given a strong signal that the new GP-led groups taking over local commissioning should employ a “very senior nurse”.
Clinical commissioning groups – which will take over most of the NHS budget from April – will have to have at least one nurse on their governing body, following a campaign by Nursing Times and others to demand the requirement.
But Nursing Times has reported concerns that a CCG could invite a nurse to attend board meetings without them having significant influence on day-to-day decisions.
The government and the NHS Commissioning Board – which will regulate CCGs – are refusing to tell the groups how to organise management.
However, guidance published by the board this month strongly emphasises the importance of them employing a very senior nurse.
It says they will have a “key” role in “ensuring quality improvements are in place, standards of care are accounted for and [care] experience is improved”. The roles will include, for example, monitoring local providers’ nursing numbers and skill-mix.
The guidance says: “The role of the nurse leader at a senior level is vital in ensuring the CCG can deliver against these duties.” It says CCGs, in designing their structures, “will wish to consider how they intend to ensure vital quality issues such as patient safety and safeguarding are given absolute attention”.
NHS Manchester chief nurse Hilary Garratt told Nursing Times: “A senior nurse would use her or his experience of working across the healthcare system to scrutinise and challenge provider and other local organisations in order to drive improvements for patients.”