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Who will fly the flag for general practice nurses?

The latest pay rise for NHS nurses will seem even more unfair for general practice nurses, but their concerns are being listened to

The latest pay rise for NHS nurses will seem even more unfair for general practice nurses, but their concerns are being listened to writes chair of the RCN general practice nursing forum Marie Therese Massey


Picture: iStock

Are you familiar with the aims of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and the ten-point action plan for general practice nursing? I would like to think that all general practice nurses (GPNs) are.

Recruitment and retention to the GPN workforce have been prioritised and embedded into these initiatives. A body of community education provider networks (CEPNs) has been tasked with growing the workforce and you may well be involved in this – by mentoring nursing students.

But addressing the need for more GPNs is by no means the only strategy being undertaken by the government to meet the challenges of the shift towards care closer to home. Community care is now provided by a variety of allied healthcare practitioners (ACPs). Over the past decade GPNs have been joined by healthcare support workers, clinical and prescribing pharmacists, physician associates and emergency care practitioners.

'If we don’t want to get lost in these myriad new roles or find ourselves extinct, then we need to take action now'

Coupled with this, there has been extra funding available in many areas for GPNs to undertake advanced clinical practice courses. We are all familiar with the scenario where ACPs have been employed to address the general practitioner gap, leaving holes in the GPN service.

Don’t get me wrong. I value the contribution of all these colleagues, but I do wonder what the future holds for the generalist nurse. We have worked hard to get the recognition our role deserves as all-round autonomous practitioners but we know our numbers are dropping. So who will fly our flag?

Acting now

We need to ensure our unique role cannot be replaced or dumbed down by using other providers. If we don’t want to get lost in these myriad new roles or – perish the thought – find ourselves extinct, then we need to take action now.

Get involved where you can. Is your clinical commissioning group looking for nurses to contribute to the development of care? Seek out your CEPNs and consider mentoring student nurses, and nurses from return-to-practice and GPN-ready schemes.

Look for leadership opportunities and make sure there is always a GPN at the ‘top table’ in your area. Work on retaining the workforce you have by valuing them and supporting career progression.

Build on your workforce by employing new registrants or those looking for a change of career rather than tempting nurses from other practices.

We have our work cut out for us following the government announcement that NHS nurse pay in England is set to rise by 6.5% over three years. Why would you move into general practice with its non-standard terms and conditions and reluctance to embrace Agenda for Change?

We need you

The RCN GPN forum has listened, and we do hear your frustration on why we have been left out of this pay bargaining. We intend to work with the RCN on getting a deal for non-NHS staff. But you can be proactive too by contacting your RCN branch and raising these issues. 

We may be ‘ageing’, as the Queen’s Nursing Institute survey from 2016 found, but we are not down. We have plenty of fight left and we are strong enough to fight for the future of general practice nurses.


About the author

Marie Therese Massey is a Queen's Nurse, chair of the RCN general practice nursing forum and senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University

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