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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 14:48 GMT
Nurses to run more hospitals
Senior nurses
Senior nurses will get new powers
A major drive to get more senior nurses appointed as hospital chief executives is being launched by the government.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn also told a conference of nurses on Wednesday that measures were to be introduced to ensure that all ward sisters and charge nurses took control of ward staffing budgets.

Ward sisters and charge nurses are best placed to know the day to day needs of patients and the hour by hour demands on staff

Alan Milburn
He said the proposals were part of the government's drive to decentralise power and resources from Whitehall to front-line NHS staff.

Mr Milburn stressed that ministers wanted to see more senior nurses in charge of hospitals.

Failed applications

A recent survey found that only half of nurse directors who apply for chief executive posts get interviews. Many are put off after their first unsuccessful attempt.

A new government programme will fast-track high-flying nursing staff into positions as hospital chief executives.

Mr Milburn said: "I am convinced we need more clinicians in key leadership roles throughout the health service.

"Clinical insight and understanding of patient care is the experience we ought to value most in our top people.

I believe, there is no person better qualified to run a hospital than a nurse

Dr Beverly Malone
"This leadership programme is about allowing nurses to break through the glass ceiling which has for too long held them back."

Mr Milburn also announced that the NHS Modernisation Agency will, over the next 12 months, lead a management programme to support devolution of staffing budgets to those ward sisters and charge nurses in England's hospitals who do not yet have this control.

Thousands of pounds

Within a year every ward sister will have control over ward staffing budgets, worth as much as 800,000 a year.

The move is designed to allow more ward sisters to manage the staff on their ward, plan rosters, shift patterns and the need for agency or bank nurses.

Ward sisters will decide the mix of grades, mix of skills and mix of jobs on each ward so that nurses can maximise hours spent at the patient's bedside.

Mr Milburn, speaking at the Chief Nursing Officer's Conference in Harrogate, said: "Ward sisters and charge nurses are best placed to know the day to day needs of patients and the hour by hour demands on staff.

"It is because they understand that they should be in control."

Dr Beverly Malone, Royal College of Nursing general secretary, welcomed the emphasis on giving ward sisters and charge nurses the authority to decide the staffing levels on wards.

She said: "We have always said that these nurses - who are at the heart of delivering patient care - should determine the number and type of staff needed to care for patients.

"Putting nurses in charge of staff budgets makes common sense. To really make this work, we need to make sure that these nurses are able to make a genuine contribution to the budget setting process."

Dr Malone also welcomed the proposal to develop nurses as potential chief executives.

"The NHS needs to be able to draw on the whole range of talent and expertise available and, I believe, there is no person better qualified to run a hospital than a nurse."

See also:

04 Apr 01 | Health
Matrons back on the wards
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