What is the future for practice nurse advisors?

Concerns have been expressed to Practice Nursing about the future of the role of practice nurse adviser as primary care trusts (PCTs) are replaced by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) by April 2013 under the government’s restructure of the NHS. Practice nurse advisers have been an important source of professional development support for practice nurses in a number of trusts for many years. In Cornwall, the practice nurse adviser role has been around for about 20 years and has survived all the other reorganizations of this period. Practice nurse advisers have worked in the background to make sure the views, concerns and development needs of practice nurses are highlighted in the decision making processes of the PCTs.

Paul Jeffrey, lead practice nurse for NHS Cornwall and Isle of Scilly, told Practice Nursing that at present none of the lead practice nurses in the far south west know if their role will exist after April 2013. ‘If there is a role, it may be part of the GP clinical leader’s role, who will lead ten programmes of work for the Kernow commissioning group,’ he said. ‘As the clinical lead will usually be a GP, there may be an opportunity here for practice nurse advisers to take a lead.’ In West Kent, practice nurses have been supported by practice nurse advisers for over 10 years. The role expanded to Medway 3 years ago and more recently, to East Kent. The team consists of five advisers who have helped develop key resources for practice nurses, including appraisal guidance and competencies. The team offers clinical supervision, educational forums, one-to-one mentoring, and professional support to practice nurses across Kent and Medway. The practice nurse advisers now work together with the Kent and Medway GP staff training team as part of the Primary Care Development Unit (PCDU), which provides training, mentoring and expertise for all staff employed in general practice (Kent and Medway GP Staff Training, 2012). The PCDU recently held its second conference for nurses working in general practice in Maidstone on 19–20 September (a full report will appear in next month’s Practice Nursing). These combined services are believed to be unique to Kent and Medway and are held in high regard, both by practice nurses and their employing practices. GPs in Kent and Medway collectively fund training for their staff that is commissioned, as well as delivered, by the PCDU teaching staff. In this time of transition, conference delegates were encouraged to give feedback to their GP employers and show their support and appreciation for these services, in the hope they will be continued in the new NHS architecture. Paul Jeffrey said: ‘Practice nurse advisers have been crucial in the development of the practice nursing role.

The loss of the PN adviser role would see fragmentation of the excellent work that has been developed over the last 20 years and would be a serious retrograde step in practice nurse advancement at this crucial time of immense change in the NHS.’

Do you want to see the practice nurse adviser role continue? Please email Practice Nursing with your view: pn@markallengroup.com

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