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Half of practice nursing posts could be vacant within a decade – report

Health Foundation says urgent action is needed to recruit nurses in England and stop staff exodus due to increasing workload pressures

Health Foundation says urgent action is needed to recruit nurses in England and stop staff exodus due to increasing workload pressures

Nearly half of practice nursing posts in England could be vacant within ten years, according to a report that warns of an escalating crisis in primary care.

The analysis by the Health Foundation suggests the NHS in England is facing a crippling shortage of general practice nurses and GPs over the coming decade.

Nursing vacancies will affect ‘patient safety and quality of care’

The report examines current trends and workforce policies and suggests that one in four practice nurse posts will be vacant by

Health Foundation says urgent action is needed to recruit nurses in England and stop staff exodus due to increasing workload pressures

Photo of practice nurse with a patient
Picture: iStock

Nearly half of practice nursing posts in England could be vacant within ten years, according to a report that warns of an escalating crisis in primary care.

The analysis by the Health Foundation suggests the NHS in England is facing a crippling shortage of general practice nurses and GPs over the coming decade.

Nursing vacancies will affect ‘patient safety and quality of care’

The report examines current trends and workforce policies and suggests that one in four practice nurse posts will be vacant by 2030 – a shortfall of about 6,400 full-time equivalent nurses.

However, if an increasing number of nurses leave due to burnout and stress, and there is a failure to create effective multidisciplinary general practice teams, this number could increase to 10,100 nurse vacancies – almost one in two posts.

‘This raises serious concerns around patient safety, the quality of care and equity of access,’ the report states.

Ensuring ‘sufficient numbers of nurses are trained for the future’ is a priority

Health Foundation director of research Anita Charlesworth said urgent steps must be taken to prevent general practice getting locked in a vicious cycle where increased workloads drove nurses and GPs to leave, ramping up pressure on the remaining staff, which in turn would lead to further departures.

She said there were steps the government could take to limit nursing shortages but warned ‘there are no quick fixes’.

Ms Charlesworth added: ‘Action is urgently needed to retain existing GPs and practice nurses and to ensure that sufficient numbers are trained for the future.’

Other key measures include investing in buildings and equipment, and recruiting many more allied health professionals such as pharmacists and physiotherapists into primary care to help reduce pressure on GPs and nurses.

Fair pay and recognition of leadership skills are vital, RCN says

RCN professional lead for primary care Heather Randle said nursing shortfalls could be reduced with the right recruitment and retention policies.

‘For general practice nursing, this starts with urgent investment including fair pay that recognises the vital role they play,’ she said.

‘Their leadership skills are also undervalued, despite the lessons of the pandemic, and nursing must be represented in the higher echelons of health and care.’

Earlier this month Ms Randle told the parliamentary health and social care select committee that many practice nurses felt ‘invisible’ due to a failure to recognise their vast skills and experience and ability to lead.

Government highlights investment in primary care

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are hugely grateful to GPs and their staff for the care they provide to patients.

‘We have invested £520 million to improve access and expand GP capacity, and we are helping to create an extra 50 million appointments a year.’


Further information

Read a summary of findings from the Health Foundation report


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