NHS NURSES are to take on more duties currently performed only by doctors under plans being put forward by Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health.
In his first keynote speech since his appointment, Mr Milburn will say next week that he wants to remove some of the demarcation lines between doctors, nurses and other health workers. He will tell the first joint conference between the NHS executive and the committee of vice-chancellors and principals that he wants hospitals to follow the lead taken in the emergency out-patient services department at Leicester Royal Infirmary, where treatment is administered by "generic" health workers.
Mr Milburn is also enthusiastic about allowing nurses to take responsibility for administering powerful drugs, including chemotherapy for cancer sufferers. As part of the new strategy and to tackle the nursing shortage, Mr Milburn is also reforming the pay structure to remove ceilings to promotion and higher pay for nurses.
Mr Milburn will say in his speech that modernising the NHS means getting to grips with the way care is delivered. He will announce the establishment of a new training centre to provide more clinical responsibility for the 250,000 nurses working in the national health service.
Doctors and other health professionals will be nervous about seeing aspects of their jobs taken over by nurses, but Mr Milburn has told colleagues he is keen to see the removal of demarcation lines between health workers, including nurses, assistants and physiotherapists in the NHS. "Where we want to get to is an NHS that offers people faster treatment," Mr Milburn told The Independent last night. "We have to deliver care in a way that is unrecognisable in terms of 1948. It means revolutionising the heart of the NHS.
"If you look at somewhere like Leicester Royal Infirmary, they are re- engineering their outpatient service. They changed the demarcations between staff. They have speeded up treatment, improved levels of patient satisfaction. We can do that everywhere and that is precisely what I want to see."
Nurses' leaders are likely to be cautious of the moves. The Royal College of Nursing has been campaigning for nurses to be given a wider role in health care, but would be concerned about merging roles. …