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The BBC's Niall Dickson
""Alan Milburn came bearing gifts"
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Alan Milburn
"I want to see more nurses working in the NHS"
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Wednesday, 5 April, 2000, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Nurses' powers to be increased

Alan Milburn pledged more control for nurses
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has set out how he intends to give nurses more power within the NHS.

Addressing the Royal College of Nurses annual congress, he said he wanted to create a health service "which liberates nurses, not limits them".

Throughout the NHS it is nurses that are already taking the lead

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
Their prescribing role is to be increased and ward sisters and charge nurses who run their own wards are to be given control over their own maintenance and repair budgets - worth 50m nation-wide.

The proposals outlined on Wednesday are aimed at further breaking down some of the traditional boundaries between the roles of nurses and doctors.

He also restated his commitment to increase nursing numbers and to double the number of consultant nurses, dubbed "supernurses" and with salaries of up to 42,000 a year, to over 300 within the next year.

Mr Milburn told the conference in Bournemouth: "Throughout the NHS it is nurses that are already taking the lead.

"We have to liberate nurses - nursing skills and nursing values - so that you can be leaders of change.

He added: "Unlocking the potential of all the staff of the NHS is the key to modernising all of the NHS. We need an expansion in staffing to match the expansion in services the modern NHS will provide.

'Modern matrons'

Nurses' leaders earlier this week called for the establishment of "modern matrons" who would have more power in running hospitals.

Nurses in charge of hospital wards will be put in control of their maintenance and repair budgets - amounting to around 5,000 per ward.

As well as more budget control, 10,000 existing nurses will be trained to become "nurse prescribers" at a cost of 10m over the next three years.

They will be able to write out prescriptions for chronic illnesses such as asthma and for minor ailments.

The announcement increases the number of existing nurse prescribers and extends the list of products they can sign for without a doctor's permission.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "It is an example of Mr Milburn's determination that the record funding for the NHS announced in the Budget will be spent at the frontline of patient care."

Mr Milburn also said nurses would have a significant input in the modernisation programme for the NHS - 12 nurses are on groups set up to advise the government on changes.

He added: "Ward sisters and charge nurses are the lynchpin of our hospital system but for far too long they have had responsibilities without power.

"They have shouldered the consequences of actions without really being able to shape them."

The Health Secretary's speech won the backing of delegates at the conference when 62% said they were "reassured" by his comments.

Just 16% of delegates said they were reassured by Conservative Party leader William Hague's speech to the conference on Tuesday.

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19 Nov 99 | Health
Nurses' role set to expand
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