Government legislation should be amended so it is compulsory for GP consortia to have a nurse on their board, according to MPs.
The Commons’ health select committee has proposed amendments to the government’s NHS reforms that include stipulating the make-up of the boards of the new GP consortia, which will take over the majority of NHS spending decisions from 2013.
The government has said it will not force consortia to have boards, and equally will not tell consortia who should sit on them if they do have one.
However, in its latest report on NHS commissioning, the committee concluded that GP consortia should be renamed “NHS Commissioning Authorities” and should be required to establish boards.
Nursing Times is campaigning for a seat on the board so that nurses can play a part in commissioning and redesigning NHS services.
The report published today by MPs said the boards should include a nurse, as well as representatives from secondary care, public health and social care.
It stated that the committee “recommends that the statutory governance arrangements for local commissioning bodies should prescribe that the membership of the board should include representatives of nurses and of secondary care doctors”.
In order to retain the “leading role” of GPs in the new organisations, the committee said they should be in the majority, which would mean boards of at least 13 members.
Health committee chair and former health secretary Stephen Dorrell said: “Our proposals are designed to ensure that NHS commissioning involves all stakeholders – GPs, certainly, but also nurses, hospital doctors, and representatives of social care and local communities.
“We believe this broadening of the base for commissioning is vital if we are to achieve the changes that are necessary to allow the NHS deliver properly coordinated healthcare.”
The report on the committee’s inquiry noted that it had received “evidence about the importance of ensuring that commissioners have access to the expertise of nurses, therapists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals”.
It went on to cite the evidence given by health secretary Andrew Lansley himself, which it stated “illustrated the very useful role that nurses can and do play in the process of commissioning”.
The report quoted Mr Lansley as having told MPs: “Nurses are very often in a very strong position to see the whole care pathway, whereas doctors are very often in a position of understanding rather better the particular.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “We have long said that no single profession can have sole responsibility for commissioning healthcare, and without a mix of health care professionals – including nurses – we believe that the new model of commissioning will fail.
“Modern healthcare services are increasingly nurse-led and today’s report recognises our evidence that nurses play a pivotal role in the NHS’ decision-making process.”
He added: “Nursing staff take a lead in developing specialist services, such as cancer, and many public health initiatives. They also provide a valuable insight into practical issues of service delivery, including advice on value for money, efficient practice and quality patient care.”
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