Fewer than half of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have appointed a nurse to their governing bodies despite it being just nine months until they take over commissioning responsibilities from PCTs.
CCGs are required to include at least one qualified (non general practice-based) nurse, in an executive role, and may appoint additional nurses, including practice nurses.
Despite this, IN research suggests only 6 per cent of groups have more than one nurse in place, with 51 per cent yet to make any nurse appointment; 8 per cent of CCGs have only a practice nurses on the board, contrary to government guidance.
The findings are based on a Freedom of Information Act request made by Independent Nurse to which 65 CCGs have so far responded, representing more than a quarter of the total number of groups. An IN poll from February found that 54 per cent of CCGs had yet to appoint a nurse to the board.
More than a third of CCGs are yet to agree a time commitment for the lead nurse role. Among those that have decided, 29 per cent plan to employ a nurse full-time, while the same number have allocated fewer than five hours a month. Around 39 per cent said the role would comprise 'six to 10 hours a week'.
RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said he was growing 'increasingly concerned' about the slow progress of CCGs in appointing nurses, and the regional disparity regarding the time commitment involved.
'Despite the government acknowledging the need for a nurse on boards we are concerned this does not seem to be happening,' he said. 'Without substantial nurse representation many CCGs will fail to deliver the best care possible.'
He warned against groups appointing nurses in a tokenistic manner, simply to fulfill DH requirements. 'The nurse role should be substantive, senior and strategic, providing leadership in the development of the features required for a successful commissioning group.'
Government commissioning adviser Dr James Kingsland urged groups to speed up the appointment process.
'If you were to repeat this survey in a month's time I would like to see every CCG board with a nurse appointed,' he said. 'If you can't structure a governing body, then how are you going to perform when it comes to reforming care?'
Independent Nurse's No Tokenism campaign is calling for nurses to have real influence over clinical commissioning.