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Widening scope of primary care nurses key to high-quality care, says report

Widening scope of primary care nurses key to high-quality care, says report

Boosting the number of primary care nurses and widening the scope of services they provide will ensure access to high-quality care is enhanced, according to a new report from the International Council of Nurses (ICN).

The report, which focuses on the ‘economic power of care’, has been launched today ahead of International Nurses Day on 12 May.

The ICN said it ‘seeks to ignite a paradigm shift’ and shine a light on the ‘immense economic and societal contributions’ made by nurses every day.

The report combines evidence from economists and global experts to promote a holistic approach to health which recognises the centrality of primary care nursing to universal health coverage and economic stability.

With a chapter dedicated to primary care, the 96-page blueprint spotlights the ‘crucial role’ of general practice nurses and explores the benefits of ‘nurse-intensive primary care models’.

While recognising the need to increase the workforce, the report said: ‘Nurses often serve as the first point of contact in the health system, playing a crucial role in primary care.

‘An increase in their numbers ensures more patients receive basic health care services.’

In its review of ‘nurse-intensive primary care models’ – described as primary care delivery models where nurses play a ‘central role’ – the ICN said evidence supporting the ‘safety, quality and desirability’ of these models was ‘indisputable’.

It cited examples such as same-day phone consultations with nurses, and the establishment of nurse-manager roles in primary care teams to support patients with chronic conditions, as evidence of successful nurse-led care.

However, it said the ‘economic impact of nurse-led primary care’ was ‘underexplored’.

Existing research has typically focused on outputs of the models, such as ‘average costs per visit, per patient, or per episode, paying scant attention to what the ultimate outcomes might be’, the report added.

Calling for ‘policy action’, the ICN report said the economic benefits of nurse-led primary care must be understood via ‘ultimate outcomes’ which examine the long-term impacts of such as avoided illness and improved patient wellbeing.

Though it added that delaying the adoption of nurse-led models in primary care until further evidence was available was ‘not a wise course of action’.

‘The existing body of evidence already strongly indicates that more primary care nursing is a sound and cost-effective avenue to explore,’ the report said.

It added: ‘Existing evidence shows that having more nurses provide a broader scope of primary care services is an effective and efficient way to enhance access to high-quality care.’

More widely, the blueprint explores how poor health costs the global economy 15% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the authors make the link between poor health and inadequate healthcare, and economic prosperity.

Overarchingly, it sees properly funded nursing as a way to boost economic growth, alleviate gender inequality and improve health and quality of life.

ICN President Dr Pamela Cipriano said: ‘Ahead of International Nurses Day this year, our report focuses on the economic benefits of having more nurses for the whole global economy.

‘We know that healthier people are more engaged and more economically productive, but millions of people lack access to the essential health care that they need, most of which is delivered by registered nurses.’

She stressed that governments must approach spending on nursing as an investment and not a cost, because ‘investing in healthcare saves money’.

She said experts suggested that ‘having a healthy population could boost global GDP by USD 12 trillion or 8%’.


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