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The "new NHS": supporting each other

News of illness in a family member, and the subsequent rallying round of relatives, caused Helen Lewis to examine her relationships with her colleagues, and how the profession will cope with the changes we face ...

I have a very dear aunt who has lived in the United States for the past 30-something years. We do not talk on the phone every day and it may be some years between visits. I have a second aunt who lives in the UK and they are both sisters to my mum. Recently, one of them suffered an MI requiring surgery and, while she is not out of the woods yet, she is certainly getting stronger. This event has triggered a heartwarming chain of events - passports have been renewed and all of a sudden the wheels of support have gone into overdrive.    

Now for all of my fellow sceptics who have a nagging doubt about where the NHS is going, I refer you to the comment in the most recent issue of Nursing in Practice, where Consultant Editor, Marilyn Eveleigh, discusses yet another White Paper aimed at making the NHS more efficient and accountable to the people we serve.       

GPs are going to have a greater role in leadership and decision-making, and the question of whether this will impact on patient care is one which undoubtedly will be examined and dissected in the months and years ahead. The role that nurses within community care will take has, to an extent, landed in a grey area.  

On the one hand this could, and should, be an exciting time for community nurses, where innovation and experience can really be brought to the fore, and nurse training can go to another level for community nurses wanting to realise their ambitions of advanced-level nursing.     

On the other hand, community nurses are in danger of simply being there to mop up what the GPs do not wish to do, and having to go without the training and recognition they deserve. As always, only time will tell how these changes will affect community nurses.

Training for practice nurses can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, with some GP surgeries proactive and supportive of their nurses pursuing greater and better things in their career, recognising the valuable role they play in the day-to-day care of patients. However, some GPs simply want a handmaiden who does as they are told and questions nothing.      

Community nurses are in a place where we can offer support to our GP colleagues to give them better scope for leadership and decision-making. What we must not forget is our own skills in these areas, which, let's face it - are going from strength to strength.

The "new NHS" under the coalition government will ultimately be a much better organisation if medics and nurses support each other to get through what will undoubtedly be a rollercoaster ride over the coming months, if not years. What we must not forget is our own professional standing and the ability which is in abundance in every corner of nursing.   

Support can come from individuals, departments, PCTs in England and Local Health Boards in Wales. But if this is going to work we must all support one another or it will end up being a White Paper sitting on a shelf, like so many others. Sit down and strap in because this is going to be one heck of a ride!