What Role Do Nurses Play In Influencing Policy?

Nurses play a vital role in healthcare, especially in general practice. General practice has changed a lot in recent years with cuts to funding and changes in management, meaning it wouldn’t be possible for surgeries to offer the care that they provide without nurses. With such an important role to play in healthcare, you’d think that nurses would be a key part in influencing policy – but are they being heard?

Are nurses being consulted to ensure they are influencing policy?

Despite working on the front line of healthcare, it seems that nurses aren’t being consulted. Their opinion could help to make improvements and changes to services, ensure better working practices and more, but in order to achieve this, they need to be asked for their opinion and listened to.

The other issue facing nurses of course is that they wouldn’t be able to spend time attending meetings with their current workload. Instead, this would most likely have to be done in addition to working hours, which could affect work/life balance.

One GP, Dr John Cormack, is looking to change this. He’s filmed interviews with the nurses at his practice in a bid to get their views so that he can provide feedback to healthboards in Essex. While he admits that not much has happened yet, it’s a first step towards making sure nurses’ voices are heard.

Last year, the subject of influencing policy was debated at the RCN International Nursing Conference, which was held in Oxford. It was argued that government policy can ignore academic research, citing the prevention of Type 2 diabetes as an example. While education can help those with pre-diabetes to avoid developing the condition, it’s been argued that the social elements that can lead to poor lifestyle and health conditions need to be taken into consideration and examined further.

How can nurses influence policy?

While many voices remain unheard when it comes to influencing policy, there is work taking place where nurses have a seat at the table. The National Nursing Leadership group is a group made up of several people from within the profession, where their opinions help shape policy on the role that nurses play in managing different elements of care.

Meanwhile, the Leading Change, Adding Value initiative from the NHS allows nurses to get involved in some key areas of policy. Through the scheme, nurses are able to view and add value to research and share case studies. It also provides shared learning opportunities. It’s easy for nurses to get involved and can make a difference both to local practices and the wider nursing community.

Influencing policy is a key challenge in the nursing community, and evidence suggests that more needs to be done to ensure that voices are heard. Meanwhile, nurses wanting to experience a different side to general practice could consider out of hours working as a way to change how they work and perhaps enjoy a better work/life balance. More information on out of hours working and the latest vacancies can be found on our jobs page.