Hospitals to get 5,000 `supernurses'

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The Independent Online
EVERY MAIN hospital in Britain is to get a pounds 40,000-a-year "supernurse" by 2001, Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, pledged yesterday as he revealed that nurses were coming back to the NHS.

Mr Dobson said the Government would fund a sharp increase in the number of nursing consultants from a couple of hundred to more than 5,000 by the next election.

The figure is much higher than expected and follows vigorous criticism from the Royal College of Nursing that thousands would be needed to make a difference to the service.

Mr Dobson also said that a pounds 5m television recruitment campaign launched in February had nearly doubled the number of applications for nursing colleges. More than 4,300 qualified nurses have returned to the NHS and applications for midwifery had gone up from 4,000 to 6,500, he said. The "supernurses", who will be given the same status as medical consultants, are seen by Tony Blair as the spearhead of his plans to modernise the NHS.

Nurses in the new, highly paid grade will be allowed to run specialist clinics such as breast cancer or cardiac rehabilitation, and will have their own patients and staff.

Mr Dobson told BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme: "This is not a gimmick. We have already told management to start identifying these people and there will be hundreds in place by the end of the year and thousands by the time of the next general election."

The number of applicants for college and university places had gone up from 16,000 to 30,000 since the beginning of the year, he said.

Detailed figures to be published today show that since the television and press campaign started, more than 1,600 nurses have come back to work, with a further 2,700 on short-term refresher courses to return to the wards. More than 300 midwives have returned to full-time work, while the number of applications for training courses has risen from 42,000 to 80,000.

Many of the applicants are believed to have been attracted not only by the slick advertising campaign's emphasis on caring, but by the 11 per cent pay award given to some nurses.

The Royal College of Nursing claims that Britain is short 13,000 nurses, but the Government says it is only 9,000 short.

The Department of Health has been criticised by unions for relying on trained staff from abroad to keep the NHS afloat

Mr Dobson stressed that he was tackling the problem as urgently as he could by introducing family-friendly work patterns to encourage mothers to return to the profession."But you can't invent nurses or midwives, it takes three years at least to train them," he said.

"This news shows that the NHS is getting the nurses and midwives back, back on the wards. It's a massive boost for the NHS and for patients."

The "supernurse" post aims to let staff remain in hands-on jobs instead of taking higher-paid jobs in management.

At the moment, the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse is pounds 12,600, rising to pounds 26,500 for the most senior clinical nursing specialists. The grading scheme was introduced by the Conservatives 10 years ago in an attempt to allow nurses to earn more at the highest level.

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