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Role of practice nurses "should be expanded"

The chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called for practice nurses to take on more responsibilities in order to enable GPs to spend more time on consultations and 24-hour care.

At an NHS Confederation conference in London last week, Professor Steve Field said nurses could do many of the jobs of GPs in order to improve patient care.

He said: "[GPs] need to have consultations with our patients lasting around 15-20 minutes. We should focus on the whole of the patient and provide continuity of care.

"What we are not are minor illness walk-in-centre people. When a GP sees a patient, that patient should become the centre of their universe."

Professor Field added that patient care should be led by a team that includes nurses, not just GPs, despite the fact GPs may feel threatened by this.

He called for more nurses in primary care, and said the RCGP would launch a forum for practice nurses.

He explained: "Gone are the days when a GP could work in isolation, we need to work in groups and in federations to deliver and commission services.

"One of the worst things we did as GPs was to give up the responsibility for commissioning 24-hour care. GPs should take back that responsibility for 24-hour care, although this poses challenges to the GP contract."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Royal College of General Practitioners

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I believe that this is the best way forward for progression suitable only for those who would wish to go down this route. added responsibilities often needs to be rewarded. However, nurses should see this as an extension of their role and an educational opening for continuing knowledge learning and skills to carry out such a demanding but rewarding role in health and healthcare services" - V Henry, London

"Yes we appreciate that we could do more but is our pay going to equal GPs or be anything near it! I don't think so, so why should we take on more of their responsibilities? As nurses we rise to the challenge year after year -the majority of us gaining QOF points with no reward!" - Karen, Grimsby

"Nurses could take on more but they need to start making more use of HCAs. We have one who is level 3 trained and can do almost as much as a practice nurse and she greatly relieves my workload. They should be paid more and given more responsibility and appreciated more, they are a good resource to any practice" - Sharon Fadden, Wirral