Editorial

Challenging the conditions putting general practice nurses under pressure

Nurses being compelled to take on more hours and work without proper processes being observed must stand firm

Nurses being compelled to take on more hours and work without proper processes being observed must stand firm


Picture: iStock

I feel compelled to raise again the topic of the terms and conditions that some general practice nurses (GPNs) are experiencing, as many worrying occurrences have been brought to my attention. 

Poor employment practices are unacceptable and should be challenged at every level. 

Not only have some GPNs not had a pay rise for many years, but some are not receiving statutory sick pay. 

Taken advantage of

I have been contacted by nurses who have been asked to sign new contracts, agree to extended hours and take on new roles without being given the required amount of negotiation time. 

A recent thread on the RCN GPN Forum Facebook page highlighted that some nurses have no allocated time to prepare their rooms and carry out the essential checks that are a requirement for safe practice. They are expected to come in early and do it in their unpaid time. Not a big deal I hear you say, but for some nurses this is part of a bigger picture of being taken advantage of. 

Challenge to recruitment

Recruitment and retention of the GPN workforce is a challenge. NHS England’s Ten Point Plan sets out a strategy to address this. But no amount of student nurses in GP placements and GPN-ready schemes will solve the problem if we can’t recruit due to unattractive working practices.

There are significant changes happening in primary care with primary care home hubs, super practices, and mergers of all shapes and sizes. New executive roles are becoming common. These are necessary for a sustainable future, but are you part of the planning team, are you being listened too and communicated with? 

Nurses can feel undervalued and anxious if they are not part of the decision-making process.  Many of you have positive experiences of change and work with good employers but the lack of consistency is frustrating. 

Check your terms

Sometimes it is easier to not rock the boat, but do reflect on your working patterns and ensure that your contract is up to date and reflects your current role. Check your sick pay and notice period, too. 

Don’t be browbeaten into signing anything new and remember that asking for time to review any changes is your right. Value yourself and your skills, be strong and seek help if needed.

 


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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