Tackling staff shortages means lifting the pay cap

NHS England launched the General Practice Forward View (GPFV) in April 2016 to address increasing demand, an ageing population, people living longer with multiple complex health conditions and greater acuity in primary and community care settings.

RCN professional lead in primary, community and integrated care Kathryn Yates

Now, NHS England has published a Ten Point Action Plan for General Practice Nursing, describing the nursing element of the GPFV and make clear the importance and value general practice nurses (GPNs) have in delivering care closer to home.

General practice has been challenged by a shortfall in GPNs over the past five years: 39% of GPNs are over the age of 55 and 31% could retire by 2021. GPNs are at the forefront of prevention and promoting the health and well-being of their practice populations. They must be recognised with appropriate career opportunities and given the support to enable them to stay and continue the valuable job that they do.

The GP Patient Survey 2017 showed that 84.8% of patients thought their last GP experience was good and 84.3% got an appointment at their local practice the last time they tried. This is a testament to the hard work of GPNs and their teams.

The ten point plan builds on the priorities set out in the GPFV, which pledged to significantly expand the general practice workforce. It focuses on the changes required to improve recruitment and retention, and encourages nurses into general practice. To ensure a sustainable primary care workforce, more pre-registration nursing students must be encouraged to consider general practice as a first destination post. With large numbers of the workforce set to retire in the next few years, general practice must become an attractive career.

Although this plan is to be welcomed, the 1% pay cap affects all areas of nursing and GPNs are no exception. Fewer people are applying to study nursing and experienced nurses are leaving the profession. If we are to tackle staff shortages in general practice the government must also lift the pay cap. 

About the author

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