Primary care priorities: training, retaining and developing

A new year offers an opportunity to look to the future and reflect on where we are. It has been said many times and is well recognised that primary care is the bedrock of the NHS.

Primary care is the setting for 90% of all NHS patient contacts, but feels the strain and is constantly challenged in keeping up with continuous and increasing demand. 

'Primary care nurses and healthcare assistants/support workers are critical to delivery' 

We are all aware of the many challenges facing primary care and that real long-term solutions are required if we are going to continue providing the best care for people in our communities, who are often living with complex long-term health issues. Primary care must evolve and change to meet future expectations and demand.

What must be done

Some of those solutions include the need to allow for longer consultations, increasing access and for care to be provided by a widening and diverse range of health and social care professionals. Primary care nurses and healthcare assistants/support workers are critical to delivering to this agenda.  The priority remains on training, retaining and developing the present and future nursing workforce, ensuring that there is access to appropriate resources, facilities and new technologies required to provide the best service for those we care for. There are great opportunities for nurses who see their future careers in primary care, but we must ensure that nurses are high profile, feel valued and are enabled to remain.

I have been privileged to engage with many nurses who are at the forefront of shaping and delivering integrated primary care services, nurses who are developing strong partnerships with an emphasis on the personalisation of services and care, and nurses who are supporting and promoting choice and independence. However, there continues to be variation in opportunities and appropriate time for primary care nurses to be involved in and to lead on shaping change within and across primary care settings at all levels. This needs to be recognised and nurses enabled.

Nurses are and remain, essential to providing care closer to home and in transforming primary care.

Kathryn Yates is professional lead in primary, community and integrated care at the Royal College of Nursing