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General practice nurse the UK's most trusted profession, but more are 'desperately needed'

General practice nurses are the most trusted profession in the UK, according to the Royal College of Nursing

General practice nurses (GPNs) are the most trusted profession in the UK, according to Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) primary care lead in a push to bring their work into the spotlight for further development.

The first-ever South East London GPN conference took place in Greenwich, London, on 27 June featuring speakers from across the UK. The prevalent subject of the day was the growing importance put upon GPNs in the workplace and the need for GPs to collaborate with and support their nurses more closely.

RCN primary care lead Kathryn Yates offered some statistics on the high esteem in which GPNs are held by the public – 93% of those the RCN surveyed said they trusted their GPN to tell the trust, while 79% said they were given enough time to explain their problem during an appointment.

Dr Peter Lane, a GP working in Barnsley, used his spot as keynote speaker to map out his thoughts on the future of the GPN profession.

He said: ‘I admire general practice nurses so much I married one, and my wife works much harder than me. The expertise of GPNs means I am becoming de-skilled in certain areas and need their support on many occasions.

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‘When the government is called on to sort out general practice, there is always a call for more GPs – but there is plenty of funding in place for the training and placing of GPs. We desperately need more GPNs, which means encouraging student nurses to try out general practice and making it an attractive career destination.

‘I want more GPs like me to fight this case, especially as GPNs are an ageing workforce and may well disappear if nothing is done. GPs would fall to pieces without their nurses.’

Dr Lane suggested GPNs should be supported more closely to gain more skills and qualifications so they can upskill more effectively and safely. He also said the number of GPNs per practice should be made closer to equal with the number of doctors to reverse the ‘upside down pyramid’ structure of general practice.

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Opening the event, Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman pointed out how only 19% of general practices in South East London had student nurses on placement, compared to almost 70% having medical students on placement, as an indicator that students must be incentivised to go into general practice.

The prospect of an extra £15 million being diverted in NHS spending to increase the number of GPNs was discussed by many of the speakers, but labelled ‘not enough to do an effective job’ by NHS England nurse lead Kathryn Evans.