Workforce development plan to boost profile of practice nursing

Health Education England document sets out a workforce strategy for general practice nursing. 
Practice nursing recommendations

A workforce development plan to raise the profile of practice nursing and key recommendations about increasing consistency in recruitment, retention and return to practice has been published by Health Education England (HEE).

Health Education England’s General Practice Nursing Workforce Development Plan called
for a more defined strategy. Photo: iStock

The document is a response to NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and General Practice Forward View, which called for a practice nursing strategy and multi-million pound investment.

There are nearly 8,000 general practices in England. The HEE plan covers four main areas; entry into general practice nursing, establishing the role of the general practice nurse, enhancing the role and expanding the healthcare support workforce.

Unprecedented strain

A report on primary care from the House of Commons health select committee published in April last year warned that although primary care is the setting for 90% of all NHS patient contact, it is under unprecedented strain and struggling to keep pace with relentlessly rising demand.

The HEE plan, Recognise, Rethink, Reform, offers 13 recommendations including:

  • Improving training capacity for the practice nursing workforce by providing access to accredited training.
  • Raising the profile of practice nursing to increase the uptake of the role.
  • Developing practice nurse educator roles to cover all clinical commissioning group areas, including the promotion of mentor training for all practice nurses.
  • The development of a sustainable and easily accessible ‘how-to’ toolkit and web-based resource to support the implementation of practice nursing workforce initiatives.
  • A standardised practice nursing return to practice education programme.

Authors of the plan call on those delivering sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) to acknowledge and support the workforce initiatives set out in the document.

Meet local needs

There are 44 STP areas across England with a remit to ensure health services meet the needs of the local population.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) published a report on general practice nursing last year which found 33% of GPNs are due to retire by 2020. Some 43% of practice nurses did not feel their nursing team had the right number of appropriately qualified and trained staff to meet the needs of patients.

The report also revealed that just 27% of employers offered placements for pre-registration nursing students, compared to 61% for medical students.

QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman welcomed the ‘wide-ranging’ HEE strategy: ‘It is absolutely vital if we are to grow the practice nursing workforce that we take a strategic view that encourages as many nurses – newly-qualified and more experienced – to enter this highly rewarding but sometimes overlooked branch of the profession.

‘We particularly welcome the emphasis on mentoring and career development and progression, which will be attractive to nurses with diverse experience and skills.’

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