Headlines: February 28th, 2002

Doctors have made a major modernising step towards changing working practices in the health service.The British Medical Association is published a discussion paper today (Thursday, February 28) on the future roles of doctors and nurses.

It suggests accepting nurses’ demands for increased responsibility and preserving a doctor’s time for those tasks where increased clinical skills are required.

In primary care, for instance, the first point of call for most patients could be a nurse practitioner, who would provide the patient with information and guide the patient to the relevant service. Often this may be a consultation with a GP, but it might also be with a community pharmacist, a family welfare worker, a benefits advice worker, or a combination of these.

In secondary care, a clinical nurse specialist would be responsible for coordinating the care given by other professionals including doctors, and would also have an advanced clinical nursing role.

Significantly, doctors would be giving up the historical role of sole ‘gatekeepers’ to the care that NHS provides.

The BMA has informed its discussion paper with independent polling which has revealed that though patients do want to spend more time with their GP, they are happy to be seen by a nurse or advised by a pharmacist for minor matters.

The BMA says the new measures could overcome confusion and frustration, duplication of effort, and waste of time and resources all too common in today’s NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing has already welcomed the ideas. They’ve been campaigning for more responsibility for some time.