Nurses could take the strain off the National Health Service (NHS) by performing routine operations. Health ministers are now putting pressure on the medical and nursing Royal Colleges to dismantle traditional boundaries between surgical and nursing roles, enabling nurses to train to carry out more surgery.
Health secretary Alan Milburn said that if the professional bodies did not follow these recommendations voluntarily, the Government may impose changes itself. It could be one of the key ways forward for the overstretched NHS, where long waiting lists are a continuing problem.
In a pioneering scheme, patients at Leicester General Hospital can now choose to have an operation for carpal tunnel syndrome – a painful condition of the wrist – carried out by a nurse. The option has reduced the waiting list for the procedure from 105 weeks to between four and five.