Nurses are to be trained to perform surgery in a bid to cut waiting times for NHS patients.
Staff will attend a two-year course to become ‘surgical care practitioners’, with the ability to perform procedures such as removing hernias, benign cysts and some skin cancers.
Those who qualify will also be able to assist during major surgeries such as heart bypasses and hip and knee replacements, the Daily Mail reports.
They will also own an average of £50,000 a year, which is twice the average nursing salary of £25,000 a year.
The aim is to ease the workload of under-pressure surgeons, but critics say the plan is only a ‘sticking plaster solution’ on the serious staffing crisis within the NHS.
Surgeons working in the UK currently undergo up to 16 years of training, while a surgical care practitioner is likely to have completed a three-year degree as a nurse before the two-year course.
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There are already 800 surgical care practitioners working in hospitals in the UK, but leading surgeons say there will need to be ‘thousands’ before the difference to waiting times is felt.
Last year it was revealed that there are just under 4,400,000 people waiting for routine treatment on the NHS, up from 4,100,000 in 2018.
Meanwhile, around 12% of nursing posts remain vacant, while NHS pension changes in 2016 saw 69% surgeons admit to cutting back their hours to avoid punitive taxes.
Lib Dem health spokesman Munira Wilson has criticised the plans, stating: ‘This is a sticking plaster solution to very serious staffing crisis across our NHS workforce.’
But the proposals have received the backing of Professor Michael Griffin, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, who said there is ‘very little anxiety about this’.
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.’