An Audacious Plan to Train Nurses to Perform Surgery to Reduce Waiting Times and Handle Pressure from the Aging Population | The Flame Lily, UK Nursing and Care Agency

An Audacious Plan to Train Nurses to Perform Surgery to Reduce Waiting Times and Handle Pressure from the Aging Population

Posted on March 04, 2020

In a bid to reduce waiting times, the NHS plans to have nurses trained to conduct surgical procedures. To achieve this proficiency, nurses will have to study for two years to become surgical care practitioners. This way, surgeons will have a bearable workload.

Those who are opposed to this plan, however, argue that the plan is akin to “sticking plaster solution” to a critical staffing problem.

Nurses who qualify will be responsible for procedures such as removing some skin cancers, hernias, and benign cysts. During major surgery like hip and knee replacements and heart bypass, the qualified nurses will handle key tasks.

Plans to achieve this goal will be set out by the NHS People Plan in March 2020. The plans will outline ways in which the healthcare industry should change to keep up with the growing demands of an aging population.

How the Concerned Parties Feel About Training Nurses to Perform Surgery

Generally, medical leaders are comfortable with the plan. However, patients may feel anxious or even alarmed at the idea that they will undergo surgical procedures at the hands of nurses rather than surgeons.

In total, the nurses qualified to conduct surgeries, also known as surgical care practitioners, will have done five years of training. This includes a three-year degree to become a nurse followed by a two-year master’s course.


On the contrary, surgeons have sixteen years of training under their belt. They spend six years at medical school followed by a decade of acquiring specialist skills as surgeons.

NHS Vacancy Rate and Patient Waiting List Prompt Action

According to the latest statistics, there are 43,600, or 12%, vacant NHS posts. This is a serious problem considering the overwhelming demand for good nursing care. Today, NHS waiting times are at their worst in thirteen years. There are 4.4 million patients still on lists, and some have been waiting for at least a year.

Last year, the delays worsened with as much as 70% of surgeons reducing their working hours to avoid punitive pension taxes from the Treasury. Today, there are around 800 surgical care practitioners in UK hospitals. Surgeons believe that to even dent the problem, thousands of additional surgical practitioners are needed.

Age UK’s Caroline Abrahams says that anything capable of giving the elderly surgical care faster is worth the effort. Caroline’s only concern is that such plans should be assessed for safety and have the right clinical oversight.


The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s president Michael Griffin expressed his support for the plans, saying that the Royal College of Surgeons has very little anxiety. Professor Griffin argues that most of the procedures are reproducible and surgical practitioners will help reduce the long waiting lists.

What’s more, the fact that surgical care practitioners earn around £50,000 annually, which is twice what nurses make, should make this career path attractive to nurses.
In fact, many surgical care practitioners started out as nurses.

Others work as operating department practitioners, meaning that they are theater staff with a three-year degree.

Who Will Supervise Surgical Care Practitioners?

While the Royal College of Surgeons expresses its support for the plan, its main concern is that surgical care practitioners will not be subjected to proper regulation.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council will oversee the nurses who retrain to become surgical care practitioners. The Royal College of Surgeons, however, feels that surgical care practitioners should be under the General Medical Council’s regulation which is the official regulatory body for doctors.

An NHS spokesperson said that the NHS is supporting the government to deliver 50,000 more nurses. According to the spokesperson, this will require combining nurse recruitment and training. This will help the NHS hold on to even those who were planning to leave the health service in totality to retrain and upskill.

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