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Leading GP calls for more practice nurses

Shortage of practice nurses must be addressed, says Royal College of General Practitioners chair Maureen Baker

Return to practise nursing courses must focus on getting nurses who have had a career break into general practice, a leading doctor has said.

Royal College of General Practitioners chair Maureen Baker said her organisation was concerned about the low recruitment and retention rates of nurses in general practice.

Professor Baker made the comments during a London Assembly Health Committee debate on recruiting and retaining London’s health workforce on Wednesday (February 3). She said: ‘We would like to see a return to practise nursing course focused on practice nursing.

‘These should be attractive jobs for nurses wanting to come back to the workforce, but most return to practice jobs are in the acute sector.'

Professor Baker added that some might regard a recruitment drive in primary care as ‘robbing’ nurses from other parts of the system, but she spelled out the benefits of flexible or part-time work in general practice for those who may have taken a career break.

During the discussion, RCN operational manager covering London Sue Tarr said: ‘Investment and education in the nursing workforce has to be a key priority.

‘If you have been invested in and feel valued as a person, you will come back.’

Ms Tarr said that in the past five years NHS ‘cost improvement’ had seen nursing wages reduced and senior nurses downbanded and working at a junior level. 

‘That has had a devastating effect,’ she said.

In January, RCN research showed that one in five nursing posts in London was vacant.

The figures show there were more than 10,000 empty nursing posts across all 36 London NHS trusts last year. They also revealed the nursing vacancy rate in London was much higher than the national average of 10%.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer pointed out to the committee that the average cost of a house in London is about 12 times the average earnings of a nurse and mooted the idea of giving nurses and other healthcare workers who live in London travel concessions.

Other issues discussed during the debate were workforce issues such as agency costs, stress and burnout and the cost of training.

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