Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 18:00 GMT
Nurses want larger primary care role
Nurses often take on GP postnatal work
Patients should be allowed to register directly with a nurse instead of a GP to receive primary care, say nurses.
The Royal College of Nursing, meeting in Harrogate, backed a resolution calling for nurses to be allowed to lead primary care groups.
PCGs form the centre piece of the government's plans to replace fundholding GPs.
They are groups of health care workers who will commission services from hospital trusts and other specialist centres.
Plan to deal with family doctor shortage
Janet Rowson, a practice nurse, said it made sense to give nurses more responsibility given the forecast shortage in family doctors.
Patients are happy to see nurses, she said.
"It will save the NHS money and offer a better service."
Nurses said they could provide specialist help to patients, which GPs could not. Such specialist areas include mental health and midwifery care.
Nurses in Cumbria have formed a pilot nurses' group to deliver specialist care to farmers whose health problems include a higher than average risk of suicide.
The Primary Care Act allows for nurses to develop and improve primary health care services.
Julie Belton, of the Nurse Practitioners' Association, said GPs were receiving payments for antenatal and postnatal care to patients they never saw.
This was because nurses looked after them.
Issues to address
But Shirley Bach, of the Nurses' Education Forum, warned that some issues had to be addressed before nurses could directly register patients.
They included insurance cover, the right to prescribe drugs, and codes of conduct.
The government signalled on Monday that it wants to extend nurses' role in prescribing some types of drugs.