More nurses need to be encouraged into general practice, says Queen's Nurse

Practice nursing is facing a number of workforce challenges at the same time as the government wants to provide seven day access to GP care for all patients by 2020

More nurses need to be encouraged into general practice if the government is to meet its ambitions for seven day working, a Queen’s Nurse has said. 

Prime Minister David Cameron pledged yesterday to provide seven day access to GP care for all patients by 2020. 

He announced measures including a new voluntary contract for GPs by 2017, which will mean they can form federations or ‘networks of practice’ with other GPs and work more closely with community nurses. 

The networks are intended to provide better integrated care and keep patients out of hospital.

The government will approve bids for a share of a £750 million GP access fund by next year. 

But Sheffield Hallam University senior lecturer in community nursing Marie Therese Massey said practice nursing is facing the challenge of an ageing workforce with not enough nurses being attracted to the specialism. 

Ms Massey, who is the chair of the RCN practice nurses’ association but who was speaking in a personal capacity as a senior practice nurse in Sheffield, said 50% of practice nurses are due to retire in the next five to ten years and going into general practice is not as popular a career choice as it used to be.

She added: ‘We have to look at the future of workforce development. 

‘We have to encourage more registrants into general practice, and when they are there, we have to support their education.

Lifestyle choices

‘Many GP nurses have gone into it because of lifestyle choices and opportunities to work part-time. 

‘If the future of general practice is seven days a week then future practice nurses who are being recruited may also need to be told that they may have the same terms and conditions as their secondary care colleagues.’ 

Ms Massey added that nursing students can still struggle to get experience in general practices in some parts of the country.

Meanwhile, eight of 18 pilot areas in England given money to open GP surgeries in evenings and at weekends have cut their hours because not enough patients came, Pulse magazine reported last week.

And a report published by NHS Alliance and the Primary Care Foundation said one in six patients seen by a GP could have been seen by someone else in the primary care team such as a practice nurse or a clinical pharmacist.

The study involved an audit of 5,128 GP consultations across England.



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