At a joint RCN and DoH conference on commissioning in London last month, Bob Ricketts, DoH head of demand side reform, said nurses could make the biggest contribution in areas such as needs assessments and health and wellbeing.
He said nurses were also better than managers at ensuring 'choice and voice' and involving patients in prioritising resources. 'This is, if you like, the low-hanging fruit in the commissioning agenda for nurses at the moment.'
Mr Ricketts said nurses had a key leadership role in both PCT and practice-based commissioning but agreed that some managers and doctors resisted nurse involvement.
'What we need is a culture of nurses commissioning and some leaders who are seen to be out there, driving changes. We need stories about nurse commissioners who have changed services so we can hold them up as role models.'
He also agreed the DoH needed to communicate opportunities better, because nurses were reporting learning of them from Independent Nurse magazine.
Chief nursing officer Chris Beasley said the profession needed to move on from thinking nurses should just commission nursing services.
'When we think about commissioning for vulnerable children, it's not just about commissioning health visitors. It's about commissioning for children's services and looking at who are the best people to fill the roles needed.'
Nurses needed to start by asking themselves how they could improve productivity and outcomes, set up networks, develop an overview of health needs, and ensure that every pathway extended from prevention to end-of-life care, Ms Beasley said.
She added that the nurse role in commissioning would become bigger because government priorities were shifting from an obsession with access to ensuring people were cared for.
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