A new report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) highlights the key role of nurses in protecting and improving public health.
The Value and Contribution of Nursing to Public Health in the UK demonstrates that this nursing role is recognised but not always used as much as it could be and this could be down to budget cuts in public health and the local authorities.
A survey of commissioners and those involved in delivering public health services, found that nursing expertise is highly valued. However, the survey results found that there was a gap between where nursing expertise could be used to good effect, and the issues where such expertise is readily available.
Helen Donovan, RCN professional lead for public health, said: 'There is a clear consensus that nurses have the expertise, the experience, the leadership and the local knowledge to make a difference. However, there are not enough of them in the right roles to be there when needed.'
'This report shows the difference individual nurses and their teams can make if they are given the time, support and authority to do so. There are really heartening examples of the difference that can be made, not only to individuals but to future generations. For example, by tackling teenage obesity, nurses can encourage healthy lives and reduce the burden on the NHS in the future.'
A nurse explained in the comments: 'There are things that people can see we can do, we can give an injection or a flu vaccine, a pneumococcal vaccine, that’s seen...it's written down but the soft things like...advising someone about their drinking habits, maybe, what they could possibility do to cut down...you don’t actually see that.'
The RCN collected data through a survey, a collection of case studies, and in-depth interviews with a sample of the survey respondents.
The RCN has also launched a website showcasing where nurses are making a real difference to public health, in issues ranging from obesity to HIV.