An informative debate about nurse education took place at last month's RCN Congress, in Liverpool. No, I don't mean the mud-slinging between the RCN and ministers over 'really stupid' plans to 'force' student nurses to work as healthcare assistants for a year before beginning nurse training.
The slanging match was long-distance, because nobody from government was invited to this year's Congress and ministers had not requested to attend; the tone suggested 'squabbling' rather than 'productive discussion'.
What was of far more interest was a discussion later in the week in which Lord Willis (chair of the Willis Commission and author of last November's influential report into nurse education) highlighted an urgent need to address education and mentorship in primary care.
Lord Willis asserted that there would need to be a greater focus on placements in this area, since work is due to be shifted out of hospitals and into community settings. 'Consequently, this is a sector in which improvement should be prioritised,' he said.
He warned current placements are not conducive to good practice. 'It is frankly unacceptable that a GP practice is not required to make a contribution to student (nursing) placements', adding: 'It cannot be right that medics are funded for placements and their providers are given resources to support them, but nurses are not.'
This month, NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh will announce findings of a review of emergency care and will look at how people with long-term conditions can be cared for better outside of hospital.
This should be followed by swift action to improve placements and mentorship for nurses in primary care. These are the very staff who will underpin a future primary care-led NHS and ease the unsustainable pressure on A&E.