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Working flat out, invisible practice nurses whose talent is ignored

Hardworking practice nurses could take a lead in improving services but their skills and potential are so unrecognised that they feel invisible, MPs are told
RCN's Heather Randle speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee

Hardworking practice nurses could take a lead in improving services but their skills and potential are so unrecognised that they feel invisible, MPs are told

Practice nurses are working flat out to meet huge demands on GP surgeries but often feel ‘invisible’ with their skills and expertise going unrecognised, MPs heard.

They could play a leading role in improving services but are often not given the opportunity to do so, RCN professional lead for education and primary care Heather Randle told a parliamentary committee.

Ms Randle was giving evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee , which

Hardworking practice nurses could take a lead in improving services but their skills and potential are so unrecognised that they feel invisible, MPs are told

RCN's Heather Randle speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee
Heather Randle speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee Picture: Parliament TV

Practice nurses are working flat out to meet huge demands on GP surgeries but often feel ‘invisible’ with their skills and expertise going unrecognised, MPs heard.

They could play a leading role in improving services but are often not given the opportunity to do so, RCN professional lead for education and primary care Heather Randle told a parliamentary committee.

Ms Randle was giving evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee, which is investigating the future of general practice, including moves to expand the roles and responsibilities of non-medical staff.

Many nurses work extra unpaid hours and suffer stress struggling with increased workloads

‘One of the things that our nurses say quite strongly is that they have felt invisible,’ she told the MPs. They often felt ignored and under-valued, said Ms Randle.

She described the immense pressure on practice nurses and said many were working extra unpaid hours and suffering from stress and anxiety as they struggled to cope with increased workloads.

The aftermath of the pandemic meant patients were coming in with worse conditions or multiple issues they had ‘saved up’ during the crisis. ‘When you have got five patients waiting at the door because you are running so far behind, it creates pressure and concern that things are going to get missed,’ she said.

There is a nationwide shortage of practice nurses but Ms Randle said there was not much incentive to enter the sector as pay, terms and conditions were generally better in the NHS.

Vital to recognise leadership skills of nurses and provide opportunities for career progression

Nurses were leaving or forced to take on additional work – such as working in vaccination centres – because they could not make ends meet, she added. ‘We’re seeing nurses that haven’t had a real pay rise in ten years,’ she told the MPs.

A 2020 survey of practice nurses by the Queen’s Nursing Institute that obtained more than 3,000 responses found key concerns included pay and conditions and a lack of recognition of their extensive skills and knowledge.

‘Very often a nurse going into a surgery, she works behind a closed door for eight hours and she goes home,’ said Ms Randle. ‘Nobody asks that nurse: “How can we improve this service, how can we make this work better, what leadership skills do you have?”’

As well as standardising pay and conditions, Ms Randle said it was vital to recognise the leadership skills of nurses and provide opportunities for career progression.


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