Last week saw the first strike by nursing and midwifery staff for 32 years – the first time RCM members have participated in industrial action. Although media reports suggest those striking were largely hospital-based nurses and midwives, in the IN office we have been wondering whether any primary care nursing staff joined the protest. A poll on the IN website suggested that there was little support among readers for strike action. Yet the letters we received and comments left online suggest there is a high level of discontent, in some cases anger, among primary care staff right now. If the government is allowed to erode pay for those on Agenda for Change, the bigger picture will be that all nurses' pay will suffer. There is strength in protest, but there is also an element of being the underdog. So how can nurses reclaim control of their profession?
One way would be to run your own practice, another topic we have had correspondence on recently. It seems there is an appetite out there among readers for this, but that primary care nurses don't know where to go for information or support on this. And if numerous online searches are anything to go by, that's because it isn't out there. Where is the guidance on this? And why isn't nurse-led practice more widely supported as a new model of primary care? Perhaps because the public, and to a certain extent the profession, doesn't see primary care nurses as strong public health leaders.
Primary care nursing suffers from a historical view of nurses as doctors' assistants. Those at the top of the profession must lead all primary care nurses to champion their profession. The time is now for nurses to take the lead in primary care, but even those most likely to succeed need support and knowledge to help them.