Health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to 'take every opportunity' to encourage clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to help nurses achieve real influence in commissioning.
Expressing his personal backing for Independent Nurse's No Tokenism campaign, Mr Lansley said too many CCGs were failing to 'seize the potential that nurses can bring to the commissioning process' and warned failure to do so could jeopardise their efficacy.
In our exclusive editorial Mr Lansley says: 'When it comes to clinical commissioning, there is a simple truth that everyone needs to understand. You cannot do it without nurses.
'If CCGs want to have a deep understanding of the health of their local population, if they want to know what the issues are and how best to address them, then they will need to draw on the knowledge, skills and experience of nurses.'
Mr Lansley urged nurses to be proactive and to make the most of the opportunity to get involved in their local commissioning agenda.
'I fully support Independent Nurse's 'No Tokenism' campaign to highlight the need for nurses to achieve real influence in commissioning,' he said.
'Sadly, I have heard of nurses saying that they were "not allowed" to get involved because of potential conflicts of interest. This is not only wrong, it is the exact opposite of what is needed.'
The health secretary acknowledged that his NHS reforms had been unpopular with many nurses, but said it was time to 'put those arguments behind us'.
Meanwhile, Mr Lansley has also sought to allay fears that clinical commissioners will be placed under intense central scrutiny. Addressing around 150 CCG leaders at a meeting in London in April, he said:
'I'm giving you autonomy but I'm asking you to be accountable for two things: results and achieving them within the resources available. I think the evidence is already there of a comparable NHS delivering improving results with modest increase in real-terms in spending.'
Last week saw the announcement of the first wave of 35 clinical commissioning group due to be authorised by the NHS Commissioning Board.