Nurses can free up GPs' time, says RCGP chief

The chairman of the RCGP has called for the role of practice nurses to be expanded to free up time for GPs to offer longer consultations and take on commissioning of 24-hour care.

Professor Field: expanding nurses' role

Previously, there have been calls for practices to make more use of nurse practitioners to telephone-triage patients, in order to slash waiting times and offer same-day appointments.

Former GPC deputy chairman Dr Simon Fradd, an architect of the current GMS contract, has said the number of GPs required to run a practice can be cut by 88 per cent by expanding nurse roles (GP, 19 November 2008).

At an NHS Confederation conference in London last week, RCGP chairman Professor Steve Field said GPs should delegate more work to nurses.

'We need consultations 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.'

GPs need to work with practice nurses, with more focus on the whole team, even though 'many GPs will feel threatened by this', said Professor Field. '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 responsibility for commissioning 24-hour care. GPs should take back that responsibility, although this poses challenges to the GP contract.'

Professor Field called for more nurses and nurse practitioners in primary care, and announced the RCGP is setting up a practice nurse forum.

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