Trusts that send clinical nurse specialists back to the wards could be putting the future of the clinical nurse specialist role at risk, Nursing Times had been told.
Last week an investigation by Nursing Times revealed hospital trusts across England were requiring clinical nurse specialists to undertake general ward duties outside of their specialist role.
A similar pattern is emerging in Scotland, where NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde now requires clinical nurse specialists to work one day a week on acute wards.
The move has sparked concern from nurse union leaders, who say it creates “real issues” about the role of the clinical nurse specialist and nurses’ career prospects.
Royal College of Nursing head of policy development and implementation Howard Catton said trusts need to be clear about their rationale for asking nurse specialists to undertake general ward duties.
“My concern is whether this is being driven by the need for efficiency savings and workforce flexibility, or whether it is being driven by patient need and clinical demand,” he said.
“There is a concern that nurses may not be as attracted to specialist nursing roles in the future if there is the impression that when times get tough they will be asked to step back from these roles,” he said.
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said it was “highly appropriate and highly relevant” that clinical nurse specialists undertook ward duties if the purpose was to maintain clinical skills and help pass on knowledge to others.
But she said using nurse specialists as an “additional pair of hands” was unacceptable and could lead to the role being undermined.
“We will lose their clinical expertise because their [specialist] knowledge will become more distant,” she told Nursing Times.
“In addition to this, they will become frustrated that they are not being given the authority or ability to do the job they have been trained to do and they may vote with their feet,” she said.
The cost effectiveness of clinical nurse specialists is coming under increasing scrutiny, with many trusts looking closely at the roles in response to budget pressures.
Independent nurse consultant in rheumatology Sue Oliver told Nursing Times it was vital clinical nurse specialists kept accurate and up to date records of their work so they could prove their worth to directors of nursing and commissioners.