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Practice nurses appointed as clinical directors of primary care networks

At least two practice nurses have been appointed as clinical directors of primary care networks, it has emerged.  

They form part of the host of non-GP clinicians who have been named as clinical directors including a pharmacist and a trainee doctor.   

It was initially asserted by the British Medical Association that clinical directors would be chosen from among the GPs of the network. But in March, NHS England director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said that primary care networks can be led by any clinician

Andrea Mann, a GPN and managing partner at her practice, and advanced nurse practitioner Ben Scott begin their roles as clinical directors roles on 1 July. 

Ms Mann, who will lead the Crossgates primary care network in Leeds, told Nursing in Practice that she applied for the opportunity to ‘drive change’ and ‘give a different slant onto the role’.  

She continued: ‘There has been the assumption – I think it’s fair to say nationally – that it’s going to be GPs that are going into the roles. That's generally because a lot of the GPs are in GP lead roles within localities.’    

But more nurses should consider putting themselves forward as clinical directors, urged Ms Mann. She said: ‘I think we are limited in the number of nurse leaders nationally in general practice.

'At a strategic level, there’s a lot of nurse leaders who are just finding their feet in localities and developing their role as a leader outside practice. I think within time, if we can support those nurses that are in those leadership roles across networks, they can certainly fill roles at this level.’  

Mr Scott, who will lead the Doncaster South primary care network, said: ‘Just because a nurse’s name not ‘on top of a tree’ does not mean they’re not a great leader. I know there will be thousands of members of non-medical staff that have the skillsets to be fantastic leaders.’  

Alongside two sessions a week in the clinical director role, Ms Mann and Mr Scott will continue their current roles within their practice.

Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), told Nursing in Practice that the small number of nurses named as clinical directors so far might be in part due to the speed with which the networks are being set up. 

She said: ‘If there was more lead-in time it may have resulted in more nurses considering this as a career option or as a career development opportunity.

'However, as I've said a number of times, I would expect that the next wave of clinical directors would include a substantial number of nurses because the system will have had time to think about how they might be supported to develop into those roles.’ 

Last week, the QNI launched a primary care network leadership programme for nurses and other health professionals who are clinical directors.

The programme will start in October with 18 places available and focus on collaboration, systems leadership and quality improvement. It is an extension of the schemes aimed at executive nurses run by the QNI, for which Dr Oldman said her organisation had a 'good track record'. 

Commenting on the programme, Dr Oldman said: ‘Developing the knowledge, skills and experience that we've had around leadership and management puts nurses in a perfect position to be able to fill those clinical director roles. So, we're really pleased to see that there are a handful - as far as we know - of nurses who have moved into those clinical director roles and what we want to do here is provide an opportunity for their development.’