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Practice nursing 'needs consistency'

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Consistency for practice nurses is needed despite some progress having been made said Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing.

In the second session with the Health Select Committee on primary care Ms Davies spoke about the need for more consistency across practices to ensure practice nurses are used to their full potential.

'A lot of progress has been made but it is mixed because there is no national system. The size of the practice makes a difference in the way nurses are handled but I think a career framework for nurses is so important and all practices should sign up to it,' she said.

She highlighted that there was a lack of terms and conditions for nurses working in primary care and that contractual changes need to be changed so that there is no longer differences in salaries and employment. 'Practice nurses could be based on Agenda for Change,' she said. She said that the general practice nursing framework released by Health Education England at the end of last month can help to standardise care.

The Committee also discussed the shortages of nurses and Ms Davies said that there does need to be investment in nurses and that many practices want to hire practice nurses and advanced nurse practitioners but there aren't enough nurses for these roles.

'There has been a drop in the number of practice nurses but an increased in advanced skills,' said Ms Davies.

A key topic of discussion during the session was the way that nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists can help to keep patients out of hospital. Ms Davies said that nurses can contribute to general practice in different ways from healthcare assistants to advanced nurse practitioners. 'Some practices are making good use of nurses and in these practices you can see that the nurses are keeping patients out of hospital,' she said.

The Health Committee also discussed the recommendations of the Roland report and Ms Davies welcomed the recommendations for nurses. 'I was pleased to see that there was reference to the roles of practice nurses. However, it was quite light on detail and there was a blurring in the role of the community nurse and the practice nurse. It also did not explore the role of nurse leaders.'

The aim of the Health Committee session was to explore the roles that nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists can play in the future of primary care. It was attended by Ms Davies, and Professor Karen Middleton CBE, Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and Sandra Gidley, English Pharmacy Board Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

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