Editorial

GPs should wake up to their workforce’s woes

So many practice nurses are expected to retire in the next few years that a national audit has been ordered by the body responsible for workforce planning, Nursing Standard reveals this week. Health Education England will seek to establish the severity of the situation, with a view to ensuring that the supply of nursing staff to GP surgeries is sufficient to meet demand.

So many practice nurses are expected to retire in the next few years that a national audit has been ordered by the body responsible for workforce planning, Nursing Standard reveals this week. Health Education England will seek to establish the severity of the situation, with a view to ensuring that the supply of nursing staff to GP surgeries is sufficient to meet demand.

Like so many problems with workforce planning in England, this issue could have been foreseen. Indeed, unions and professional leaders have warned for years about an impending crisis generally, and in primary care in particular. The principal problem is that thousands of nurses are approaching retirement age, with many being worn out to the point of being burnt out.

Add into the mix year after year of pay freezes and it’s no surprise that thousands of practice nurses feel that enough is enough. The impending introduction of revalidation will only make matters worse, as those with only a handful of years to go before qualifying for their pension decide to walk away.

RCNi runs workshops on revalidation at the RCN Bulletin Jobs Fairs, the next of which is in Manchester on November 5-6. Invariably there is a practice nurse in the audience who asks how she or he is going to meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s requirements because their GP employer gives them neither funding nor time off to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. The answer is that the individual registrant has to find a way of completing their 35 hours of continuing professional development activity in their own time and at their own expense.

Thousands of nurses are being worn out to the point of being burnt out

Given the lack of investment in practice nursing – both in terms of training and paying fair salaries – no wonder so many want to quit. What’s to be done? Encouraging newly qualified nurses to pursue careers in the sector would be a start, but ultimately it is down to GPs to ensure their nursing staff are treated fairly and with professional respect.

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