Nurses will be trained to perform surgical procedures as part of the NHS’ efforts to reduce waiting times for patients.
Nurses will be encouraged to take a two-year course to become “surgical care practitioners”, responsible for procedures including the removal of hernias, benign cysts and some skin cancers. They will also undertake key tasks during major surgery including heart bypasses and hip and knee replacements.
The plans are expected to be laid out in the NHS’s People Plan next month, the Daily Mail reports.
Surgical care practitioners will have done five years’ training – a three-year degree as a nurse or another healthcare professional, followed by a two-year masters course.
In contrast, surgeons have up to 16 years’ training including six years at medical school and 10 years learning specialist surgical skills.
There are currently about 800 surgical care practitioners working in hospitals.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said anything that helps older people to get the surgery they need more speedily has to be worth trying, providing the arrangements are proven to be safe and have the appropriate clinical oversight.
However, Lib Dem health spokesman Munira Wilson said: “This is a sticking plaster solution to very serious staffing crisis across our NHS workforce.”
An NHS spokesman said the NHS is supporting the government to deliver its pledge to deliver 50,000 more nurses.
“This will require a combination of training and recruiting nurses, and helping our amazing staff who may otherwise have considered leaving our health service altogether, to retrain, upskill, develop their careers and stay in the NHS,” he added.