Claims that physiotherapists are being substituted for nurses are “misleading”, senior physiotherapists have said.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called for a crackdown on the advertising of nursing jobs for people who do not have the proper qualifications to fill them.
The RCN said it was aware of instances where employers have opened nurse vacancies to people without registered nursing qualifications, or from different professional backgrounds, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
But responding to the claims, Rob Yeldham, policy director at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: “The claims made by the RCN are disappointing and misleading.
“There is no evidence that physios are being substituted for nursing roles and we have always challenged any assumption that AHPs (Allied Health Professionals) and nurses are interchangeable.
“The successful expansion of physiotherapy in recent years does mean there are more physios applying for different senior roles, but these are roles for which they have the training and skills to effectively and safely perform.
“Not only this, but they bring an enormous amount of knowledge and expertise to these roles which hugely benefits both the patients and the wider team they are working in.
“This shouldn’t be about fighting over territory but instead appreciating that each clinical profession has its own area of specialism and it is critical to recognise the competence of all clinicians working in health and social care.
“This is not a competition – there is more than enough work for everyone and we now more than ever need to rally together in order to effectively deliver this care.”
The RCN said adverts often contain caveats which say people who get the jobs need to be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) or the Health and Care Professions Council.
However, one advert the union found for a matron post was open to “registered professional clinician with demonstrable evidence of working at senior level”, but did not say it required NMC registration.
Other adverts it came across included a different matron role in acute medicine open to people without nursing qualifications, and a post where a registered nurse and registered nursing associate were seen as interchangeable, despite different education requirements for the two roles.
The RCN’s acting general secretary, Pat Cullen, said: “Filling registered nurse vacancies with those who are not registered nurses is not filling those vacancies.
“Acting in this way not only leads to vacancies elsewhere, but also carries a risk to patient care.
“The very fact that employers are needing to fill nursing posts in this way should set alarm bells ringing with ministers that cannot be ignored, and spur them into a proper investment in the long-term future of the nursing workforce.”
NHS England chief nursing officer Ruth May said: “Patient care has always been delivered by teams of professionals working together, and with the emergence of more integrated roles we expect providers to examine the expertise and skills required from a range of professional backgrounds, which ultimately is better for patients.”
She later wrote on Twitter: “I will be personally communicating with all chief nurses in England to ensure their recruitment adverts are clear and appropriately worded.”
Responding, an RCN spokeswoman said: “The quick response from the top of the NHS in England is appreciated. We fully agree that ‘where there is a clear requirement for a registered nurse the recruitment advert should state this’, and we will monitor how trusts act following the CNO’s clear steer.”