350% rise in nursing student placements in English general practices

Training hubs allow groups of practices to share and plan nurse training
Beverly Ingram

Nursing student placements in general practices in England have increased by more than 350% in the space of two years, a conference has heard.

West Midlands regional chief nurse for Health Education England, Beverly Ingram, speaking at
the conference. Picture: Tim George

The rise is partly due to the introduction of training hubs, which were introduced as a result of NHS England’s Ten-Point Plan for General Practice.

Training hubs, known as Community Education Provider Networks (CEPNs), allow federations – or groups – of general practices or sustainability and transformation partnership areas to share and plan training for students.

In June 2017 there were 2,815 students on placement in general practices, compared with 603 in September 2015, the Midlands and East General Practice Nursing Conference 2018 heard.

This marks a 366.8% increase in students on these placements, at a time when NHS England is trying to offset the threat of one third of general practice nurses becoming eligible to retire in 2020.

Health Education England (HEE) regional chief nurse for the West Midlands Beverly Ingram told the conference that ‘we all need to throw the kitchen sink’ at the workforce challenge in general practice.

She addressed at the conference in Loughborough on 21 March, and her speech was followed by a presentation on a case study CEPN.

The CEPN involves a federation of 28 general practices in Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough, and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which have formed the 3Sixty Care Partnership.

Reducing the burden

The partnership’s clinical education manager Catherine Wills said the initiative allowed students on a 12-week district nursing placement to spend 46 hours in general practice surgeries under the supervision of a registered professional – who could be a nurse, doctor or other healthcare professional.  

This reduced the burden on general practice nurses, who were previously the sole mentor of students on placement in surgeries. It also removed the need for nurses to have completed a costly NMC mentoring course, which in the past had led to a lower number of placements being offered.

Ms Wills said the 3Sixty Care Partnership arrangement had helped to increase the number of community nursing and general practice nursing placements in the area.

Stigma remains for GP nursing

But, despite these positive developments, some nurses at the conference said general practice nursing still carries a stigma.

Newly qualified nurse Hannah Blackwell said that when she had announced her ambitions to become a general practice nurse, other students had told her ‘you don’t have the experience; you don’t have the skills; you’ll be bored; it’s where nurses retire to’.

She also found it impossible to secure a general practice placement during her degree and resorted to securing work experience herself, outside of her studies.

Fellow newly qualified general practice nurse Lucy Porter said she was told she would be ‘ruining her career’ if she opted for the specialty.

More experienced nurses in the room said this echoed their experiences, but they championed the continuity of care in the role, and the ability to shape their own work.

In other news