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Senior nurses to fill in for junior doctors amid staff shortages

In order to ease staff shortages, senior nurses are to stand in for doctors, performing tests and giving drugs to patients

The new contract for junior doctors is still being discussed – the dispute over which 125,000 NHS patients had their hospital treatment postponed as medics walked out in a two-day strike last month.

The plan, drawn up by the Nuffield Trust, states that nurses would have to make treatment decisions that would normally be made by junior doctors.

Hospitals and some GP surgeries would be encouraged to train advanced practice nurses to take on more responsibility, the Times reported.

In turn, healthcare assistants would perform some of the nurse’s tasks such as blood pressure and temperature readings to ease their burden.

The report’s author, Candace Imison, director of policy for the Nuffield Trust, said in prescribing certain drugs, ordering tests and x-rays, nurses were “interchangeable with junior doctors”.

Patients feel positive about the nurses performing these roles once they have “developed relationships with these staff,” she said.

Nurses are typically paid between £31,000 and £48,000, substantially below the going-rate for a junior doctor of about £36,000 to £53,000. However, Ms Imison said the plans were not about saving money.

Chairman of the British Medical Association council, Mark Porter, told the Times that the plans were a sensible short-term solution, but he added: “This should not be done at the expense of good quality training for doctors or, indeed, doctors themselves.”

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