RCN highlights need to involve nurses in public health decisions

Authors of RCN report call on nurses to champion their work to commissioners

The RCN has called on nurses to put themselves at the forefront of public health decisions.

In the college's Value and Contribution of Nursing to Public Health in the UK report, the authors champion nurses’ skills and urge them to ‘articulate’ the often hidden aspects of what they do.

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: ‘There is a clear consensus that nurses have the expertise, the experience, the leadership skills and the local knowledge to make a difference. However, there are not enough of them in the right roles to be there when needed.’

Ms Donovan added that public health nurses are experts in ‘dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases, giving lifestyle advice [and] supporting people and families at home’.

The report includes the results of a survey of public health nurses, a compilation of case studies, and a series of in-depth interviews. It was compiled on the back of the Department of Health’s announcement in November that it expected to see local authority budgets for public health cut by 6.2% – equivalent to £200 million – in 2015-16.

The RCN’s web-based survey of public health commissioners received 219 responses. It revealed some of the challenges commissioners face when trying to include nurses in designing services including ‘lack of resources, lack of training [in some nurses] and lack of knowledge of where nurses could contribute’.

Identifying this as a ‘significant gulf between the issues where nursing expertise could be used to good effect, and where it is readily available’, the RCN believes nurses across all areas of practice should be encouraged to develop public health skills and competence.

Case studies in the report include highlighting the work of nurses at a Breathing Space Clinic for people with COPD in London, those providing healthcare for homeless adults in the East Midlands and work at an HIV clinic in Brighton.

The RCN has created a new website specifically about public health nurses here.

The full RCN report is available here.

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