Nursing in Practice March/April 2019 (issue 107) - Page 7

7 and public services are funded, financed and commissioned disincentivise investment in early intervention’, with too large a proportion of funding going towards later care. HEE hits target of 5,000 nursing associates Health Education England (HEE) has met its target of recruiting 5,000 people to nursing associate courses in 2018, it has announced. At an event in Westminster celebrating the first qualified nursing associates to enter the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, health minister Stephen Hammond announced that the target of 5,000 had been exceeded, with this cohort due to graduate in 2020. It adds to the initial cohort of 2,000 recruited in January 2017, and due to graduate this year, meaning by next year there will be more than 7,000 qualified nursing associates. Around 40% of these have expressed a desire to go on to be registered nurses with a further two years’ study. Mr Hammond confirmed the Department of Health is working with HEE to ‘lead a programme to allow progression from nursing associate to registered nurse’. But HEE chief executive Professor Ian Cumming stressed the nursing associate programme was not simply a means to increase the number of registered nurses. He said: ‘This is not just about training registered nurses, it is about a profession in its own right. We want people to have the opportunity to progress, but we also want to establish this as an important role within the NHS.’ Professor Cumming also revealed the average age of those taking up nursing associate courses is ‘significantly higher than those embarking on student nurse Professor Ian Cumming: nursing associates are older than student nurses programmes’, with the highest proportion coming from the 26-35 bracket. HEE statistics show that only 4% of nursing associates are ‘external’ recruits – those who did not come from an existing band 2 or band 3 healthcare assistant role. Check COPD registers for misdiagnosed patients, practices told Practices should check their COPD registers, say researchers, after an audit found patients may be misdiagnosed. Checks of Welsh GP records carried out by the Royal College of Physicians found most patients did not have a gold-standard spirometry test record, and of those that did, a quarter had a result that suggested they did not have COPD. The audit, conducted in 2014/15 in 61% of practices in Wales, found only 19% of COPD patients had a post-bronchodilator FEV1/FVC recorded, the researchers reported in the British Journal of General Practice. Among these, 25% had incompatible spirometry (FEV1/FVC ≥0.70), suggesting they may have been misdiagnosed. The researchers calculated that at the time of the audit, as many as 16,000 patients may have been misdiagnosed with COPD in Wales. They put the annual cost of inhalers prescribed for audit patients with incompatible spirometry and no known asthma at around £1m.  The results have already led to several funded initiatives to improve COPD care in Wales, including an optional practice audit as part of the QOF, training offered to more than 1,000 nurses and the launch of a quality tool later this year to help identify patients who may need review. The researchers said similar audits in individual clinical commissioning groups in England suggest the problem is not confined to Wales and encouraged practices to check their records. Government approves district nurse apprenticeship The planned introduction of a district nursing apprenticeship in England has been given the go-ahead by the Government. A draft occupational standard was approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, after two years of work by a group led by nurse Steph Lawrence, interim executive director of nursing at Leeds Community Healthcare and Leeds GP Confederation. The standard is set for delivery in September 2020. The apprenticeship would provide an alternative employer-funded route into district nursing via a part-time, two-year programme.  The new apprenticeship route comes after a Queen’s Nursing Institute report found 10% fewer district nurses qualified in 2017 – 464 compared with 517 in 2016.  Clinical news Statins are ‘safe for over-75s’ Patients over 75 can safely be offered statins to cut the risk of vascular events and mortality, a new study claims. Researchers from the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration found statin therapy, or a more intensive statin regimen, produced a 21% proportional reduction in the risk of a first major event (per 1.0mmol/l reduction in LDL cholesterol), and a 24% reduction in major coronary events compared with controls. Cervical screening intervals can be extended Cervical cancer screening intervals could be safely extended to at least five-yearly, following a switch to HPV tests, according to a new study. Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal compared HPV screening with traditional cytology (smear) testing and found it to be ‘more sensitive’, picking up almost 50% more lesions in some grades. Women can be given one-year CHC supply Women can be prescribed one year’s worth of combined hormonal contraception, instead of three months’ worth, at the first consultation, according to new guidelines from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare. Providing it is judged to be appropriate for the individual, a year’s supply can be given, with annual follow-up. March/April 2019