Enterprising primary care and community care nurses have developed a range of 'socially innovative' initiatives, which could improve patient care and shave millions of pounds from the NHS spend.
The 23 community nurses were among the first cohort to complete the Nurse First innovation and leadership programme launched in 2011 by the Shaftesbury Partnership.
Lucy Clement, a district nurse from Cornwall, secured funding to invest in elder-care from charity Age UK and demonstrated how hospital admissions could be reduced for elderly patients, if they are given the right kind of community support from the charity. She estimated that this could save £1.4 million per 100 patients per year.
'We have to see things outside an NHS perspective and break down professional barriers to realise benefits and meaningful savings, but also change lives,' she said.
Manchester-based clinical nurse specialist in the inherited condition neurofibramatosis type 1 Catherine Mitton described how the creation of a national buddy network had helped reduce isolation and improve patient outcomes among children with the debilitating condition.
Dave Dawes, former nurse, NHS chief executive and founder of Nurse First, said: 'Money is the oxygen of the NHS and clinical staff have started thinking about money because of the problem with flow.
'Staff are innovators when limited to do things - but ideas are inherently worthless. It's execution that matters. Nurse First finds potential in clinical staff, asks them to start with a problem they want to solve and create costed business plans.'
The goal of Nurse First is to support nurses and allied health professionals to make changes within organisations, using skills and experience to challenge existing practice. It is supported by the Queens Nursing Institute, social innovation charity NESTA, pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson and Bucks New University.
Professor David Sines, pro vice chancellor at Bucks New University called for an emphasis on strategy for the development of community services: 'This month we enrol the next generation of student nurses. 'What will attract them to work in the community? We need to think about a strategic future as well as an immediate present.'