In a parliamentary response, Anne Milton pointed to evidence that enhanced services run by advanced nurses were effective.
‘There are several studies,’ she said, ‘of specialist nurses who are managing some or all of the care of patients that would normally be done by hospital consultants.’
She said outcomes were ‘generally equivalent’, but there was an indication that nurse-led services improved patient experiences and outcomes.
But Ms Milton warned that evidence showed advanced nurse roles were often evaluated before they were fully developed. As a result, judgements about their effectiveness were ‘misleading’.
She said this was a ‘problem for primary care in particular’.
Ms Milton outlined that difficulties arise in the evaluation of advanced nursing roles because not all nurse specialist services are designed and delivered in the same way.
She said: ‘For example, some nurse specialists may prescribe or order and interpret diagnostic tests which are usually done by a doctor, others may provide intensive counselling and support that enhances the care provided by other professionals.
‘Services tend to evolve locally to meet the specific needs of local patients.’