Supernurses `will not solve NHS recruitment problems'

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The Independent Online
THE CREATION of a new grade of supernurse equivalent to a hospital medical consultant will not solve the NHS's recruitment problems, unions warned yesterday.

The announcement of plans for nurse consultants, who will have their own patients and run their own clinics, was made by Tony Blair as a part of a drive to raise the profile of nursing. Speaking at the Nurse of the Year awards, the Prime Minister said the creation of the new grade would help keep experienced nurses on the wards.

"Some nurses at a certain point in their career are happy to move into management. But many others, having acquired a wide range of skill and experience, want to progress but still retain direct day-to-day contact with patients - the reason why they came into nursing in the first place," he said.

The Royal College of Nursing said some senior nurse practitioners were already running their own clinics and operating lists, and argued that it was unclear what tasks the new consultants would take on. No details of the numbers to be created nor salary to be paid were available, the college said. Existing nurses can earn a maximum of pounds 26,500 on the wards.

An RCN spokeswoman said: "We welcome this announcement but a proper value needs to be put on all nurses. There are 8,000 vacancies and the recruitment problem needs addressing at every level."

Unison, the main NHS union, said it was delighted at the initiative to "smash the glass ceiling" which forced the best nurses out of nursing. But a spokesman warned: "The most persistent problems in the profession are low pay across the board and chronic staff shortages."