Will the latest budget, issued on 8 July 2015, affect the primary care nursing workforce? In my view it will, but possibly more indirectly than directly.
Some years ago, when I qualified (which was pre-degree-level nurse training) nursing was seen as a vocation, and no one expected to make money out of it. Everyone was committed to the long hours and low pay. With the advent of degrees, it has become possible to view nursing rather differently. Degree holders might understandably expect that starting pay would be at a more realistic level.
Now with the pay freeze for public sector workers, many practice nurses may not be directly affected by this because they are paid by GP partners who often work outside of Agenda for Change. However, we should expect some sort of knock-on effect. GPs may not adhere to Agenda for Change, but it will certainly guide the thinking of those managing practices, who are under increasing pressure to reduce their costs and maximise their profits.
A large proportion of practice nurses are coming up for retirement within the next 10 years, and many may choose to retire early. Why? Because of the demands and pressures of working in primary care, and the lack of recognition.
Recently, we have heard Jeremy Hunt's plans to increase the number of doctors going into general practice. Are the same motivations and incentives being given to nurses in general practice, who provide such a large part of the work force and see such a large proportion of the patients?
The latest announcement of a 4-year pay freeze will do nothing for morale in nursing. Many will either leave the profession or turn to agency work, leaving fewer nurses able to move into practice nursing.
Freezing nurses' salaries is a short-term fix. This may not directly affect practice nursing today but there will be an impact in the days ahead.
What will attract people into nursing, when the pay continues to be so poor, yet nurses must study for a degree first? What incentive is there to work in practice, when there seems to be little recognition for all that practice nurses do and achieve for their patients with their compassion, skills and knowledge?