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New primary health care role to be trialled in Auckland.

The New Zealand College of Primary Health Care Nurses NZNO believes a new primary health care worker, the primary care practice assistant (PCPA), is needed. The new role is to be introduced in a number of Auckland GP practices on a trial basis, Chair of the college Rosemary Minto said she had been working with such support workers for the last two years. "They have changed our practice and genuinely freed up lime for nurses, as we no longer have to do tasks such as cleaning," she said.

Primary care practice assistants will undertake a range of tasks, such as assisting with nurse-led clinics (immunisation, screening and diabetes), recording clinical measurements, treatment room preparation and sterilising equipment. Tasks will be delegated and duties performed under the supervision of a GP or practice nurse.

The college has some concerns, including the fact PCPAs will not be regulated--"we'd like to see them regulated: Nurses working with PCPAs needed to be aware of their direction and delegation responsibilities and the general practices must have policies and systems in place to support the PCPAs, Minto said.

She believes some general practices scattered throughout the country are employing people in similar support roles. "What is needed is a nationally consistent role description and education, and general practices need to have support systems in place for PCPAs," Minto said.

The college was not involved with Health Workforce New Zealand (HWNZ) or education providers in developing the role.

Comprehensive Care is being supported by HWNZ to demonstrate the role in Waitemata PHO. HWNZ director Brenda Wraight said the role had the potential to offer real value to the health system. "Practice assistants will free up the time of GPs and practice nurses, enabling them to see more patients," she said.

Comprehensive Care, AUT University and Unitec Institute of Technology have developed a PCPA education programme at level 4 and 5 on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority framework. This is at the same level as the newly instituted diploma of enrolled nursing.

Twenty students are being recruited for the demonstration, including some assistants and receptionists already working in local primary care practices. Students will begin their practice-based and tertiary study in February 2012. Tertiary studies will be undertaken part-time over three semesters.

The demonstration will run for two years and will be evaluated to assess the impact on the health workforce, including assessment of professional lime saved, and the cost and benefits of introducing the role nationally.

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Title Annotation:NEWS AND EVENTS
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Aug 1, 2011
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