Nurse leadership should be encouraged and supported 'at every level' within the NHS, according to the proposed mandate for the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB).
The draft mandate lays out the strategic goals the DH will set for the NHSCB, and includes 22 objectives across 60 areas on which the board will be held to account.
In a section entitled 'Improving our health and our healthcare', the mandate states the quality of nursing plays a 'particularly important role' in ensuring that patients are treated safely and with dignity.
'The government aims to support high standards of patient care, with nurses supported to deliver better care through a new emphasis on recruitment and training, and much greater power for ward and department sisters, charge nurses and community nurse leaders,' it says.
The mandate also charges the NHSCB with 'expanding the Family Nurse Partnership programme', which aims to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable first-time mothers.
Andrea Gupta, consultant practice nurse and chair of St Helen's Health shadow CCG, welcomed the mandate, but warned that it could go unnoticed by grass roots nurses, many of whom 'do not feel part of the government's NHS reforms'.
'More effort must be made by leaders to engage with all nurses, and to translate the changes into a meaningful format to promote ownership at all levels. Grass roots nurses must understand the positives that they can help deliver.'
The mandate does not set objectives for specific clinical conditions, and states that CCGs will have the flexibility to decide where to focus their efforts, based on local need.
But concern has been expressed that it does not address fears regarding 'quality premium' payments, which will be paid to commissioners deemed to be doing a successful job.
Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA's GP's Committee, told GP magazine: 'If (receiving the payments) is linked to achieving financial balance ... the risk is practices will be under pressure to prescribe and refer less.'
He added that withholding part of CCGs' funding meant they would be unable to plan effectively, and could 'end up spending the money inappropriately'.
To have your say on the mandate, visit http://bit.ly/mandateconsult.