The general practice nursing (GPN) workforce is shrinking at a time when care is shifting from secondary care to primary care, in line with the government's agenda to deliver care closer to home. To reverse this trend, we must understand why the workforce is shrinking and take action.
General practice nursing is rewarding, dynamic and diverse. However, there are a number of challenges acting as constraints at this critical time for general practice.
The challenges across the country include:
- A lack of pre-registration nursing courses providing placements in general practice as a core requirement.
- A lack of trained mentors meeting the NMC's requirements to support trainee nurses in general practice.
- A lack of a clear career pathway for nurses to see how they can progress from GPN to advance to nurse practitioner or nurse partner.
- A lack of collaborative working by clusters of general practices when recruiting.
- A lack of standardised terms and conditions across general practice and those offered frequently failing to match those of nurses employed directly by the NHS.
- A lack of educational and training programs across the country providing the skills and competences essential for a GPN.
- A lack of accurate national workforce data.
So what can we do? We must work collectively to ensure our voices are heard at a local, regional and national level. The RCGP General Practice Foundation Nursing Sub-group was formed in 2009 to address these challenges. GPN competences have been developed and are available on the RCGP website. Work with key national stakeholders to achieve equal access to education and training is ongoing and fundamental to achieving a workforce fit for purpose in the 21st century. Current workforce demographics reflect an ageing workforce. To counteract this, these challenges need addressing as a matter of urgency.