Promoting leadership in general practice nursing

How the National Association of Primary Care Nurses' Voice Network can improve staff development

How the National Association of Primary Care Nurses' Voice Network can improve staff development

Nurse jigsaw
Picture: iStock

It is a time of great change and opportunity in primary care, with the ongoing development of more diverse clinical teams to provide effective sustainable care. More than ever, working at scale is essential.

NHS England’s 2017 ten-point action plan for general practice nursing, General Practice: Developing confidence, capability and capacity, sets out how to meet the challenges facing the general practice workforce by attracting new recruits, supporting existing general practice nurses and encouraging former staff to return to practice.

Historically, however, moving to general practice has not been seen as much of a career move. Many nurses have viewed practice nursing as something to do at the end of a career, perhaps to fit in with childcare responsibilities or when their backs can’t take it anymore.

These types of view may have contributed to a lack of senior nursing leaders with backgrounds in primary care.


It may also be perceived that there is a hierarchy among directors of nursing, with those whose backgrounds are in acute care being at the top, that could discourage ambitious nurses from entering primary care.

At the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), we believe that effective and sustainable primary care must focus on building teams with the right skills working at scale.

Nurses have an essential role in co-designing these integrated models of care, and ensuring they take up this role requires strong, visible nursing leadership on a local, regional and national level. 

Developing skills

Nurses are already leaders in primary care and there are some amazing examples of their work, but these are not joined up because nurses often work in isolation.

In addition, being employed and managed by GPs can make it difficult for nurses to develop and build on their leadership skills.

NAPC’s vision for the Nurses’ Voice Network is to deliver the first two points of NHS England’s 2017 action plan for general practice nursing: to celebrate and raise the profile of general practice nursing, promote general practice as a first-destination career, and to extend leadership and educator roles.

These aims will be met by:

  • Promoting nurse leadership as a style of practice and something deserving recognition in the community.
  • Enabling career progression, encouraging parity of esteem and strengthening nursing in a primary care multidisciplinary service.
  • Ensuring a framework of standards and competencies that are mapped to current principles and standards, but that are specific to new ways of working.
  • Taking assurance and accreditation into account.
  • Supporting education and training.
  • Consideration generic versus specialist working in multidisciplinary environments.
  • Prompting staff to think about ‘what good looks like’.
  • Helping senior staff to operate at the top of their licence with all the checks and measures that provide good guidance but with the appetite to remain independent.

Care models

NAPC’s experiences of NHS England’s ‘new’ care models, for example of primary care homes, enable us to provide a unique perspective of nursing at scale, and equip us with the knowledge and capability to support the four regional implementation boards with rolling out the ten-point plan.

The NAPC announced plans for a network in 2015. Since then, we have been exploring the needs and wants of nurses through face-to-face discussions, focus groups and surveys.

NAPC will launch the network in November, at the NAPC Annual Conference in Birmingham. To find out more, go here, or contact network leads Joanne Loades at or Michaela Nuttall at

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