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'Frustrating battle for nurse prescribing: more than 200 primary health care nurses from around the country gathered in Auckland last month for NZNO's third primary health care conference, opened by Health Minister Annette King.

The seven-year battle for nurse prescribing has been one of the frustrating things Health Minister Annette King has been involved in as a Minister. Opening the conference, the Minister said she was determined to act on nurse prescribing once consultation on the Ministry of Health's latest nurse prescribing document dosed late last month.

Welcoming the Minister to the conference, NZNO professional nurse adviser and conference convenor Susanne Trim described her as "a friend of nurses, who understands the centrality of nursing in improving New Zealanders' health status." The Minister said that with a general election Looming, the country was at a crossroads in terms of primary health care (PHC). Recapping on the $2.26 billion pledged to PHC over seven years from 2002 and the establishment of primary health organisations, the Minister said National's desire for targeted rather than universal funding was "Less than a whole-hearted endorsement of primary health care". The Government's PHC strategy remained the best way of improving the health of New Zealanders and statistics from Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) were very encouraging. "There has been an 11 percent reduction in acute hospital admissions for children, immunisation rates have increased and 6500 people are enrolled in chronic care management programmes such as CarePlus. The DHB has flown the flag of primary health care high."

Using the skills of all the health workforce in the most appropriate and enlightened way was important "and we are not doing as well as we can, particularly for nurses". The profession had been grappling with the development of the advanced nursing role and the need to look at different ways of doing things. The mechanism to do that was the NP model but it was not yet being used properly, the Minister said.

It was then she referred to the frustration of the nurse prescribing saga and went on to say she would continue to support PHC nurses and the continued growth of the NP role. "This is one way of advancing PHC nurses and services, particularly in rural areas."

She announced the establishment of a working party to took at the employment of NPs. "There are 17 NPs now endorsed, with another 100 awaiting endorsement from Nursing Council. We want to provide them with the support that is needed and to took at how their skills can be aligned to current needs."

She suggested the possibility of an intern-style clinical experience for NPs and said she was committed to advancing the role.

Further education was essential for workforce development and the Minister referred to the $8.1 million committed to nursing innovations, the 390 scholarships for PHC nurses to undertake postgraduate study and the recently announced entry-to-practice programme.

Nurses were one of the most important sectors of the health workforce in terms of implementing the PHC strategy. "By the time of the next PHC conference, I want to see nurses playing an even more crucial rote in delivering primary health care to New Zealanders," she said.
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Author:Manchester, Anne
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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