Nurses working in general practice should take heart in their ‘desirable qualifications’, according to the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), as 265,000 patients are forced to move to new GP practices following record closures.
A request under the Freedom of Information Act by Pulse magazine revealed 57 practices closed in 2016, with a 34 more shutting because of mergers. The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) said doctors could no longer cope with growing patient demand without more funding, but NHS England said it increased investment in general practice by £1bn over two years.
QNI chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman reached out to nurses in general practice worried their own practices might close or merge, saying the NHS was facing a shortage of GP nurses already.
She said: ‘GP nurses have a unique, very desirable set of qualifications and that is exactly why they should take heart despite these figures. There are practices all over the UK in desperate need of nurses to join their staff.
‘There are many exciting and diverse opportunities in the UK for GP nurses right now, with the development of primary care homes across England pooling all facets of primary care into centralised points of contact for population centres of 30-50,000 people.
‘This new project now covers around 10% of the population in England and, along with regular practices’ constant need for nurses, should reassure GP nurses that there is certainly a place for them.’
The figures also highlighted areas particularly affected included Brighton, which saw seven practices close in the past two years. Four of the closures meant 9,000 patients had to find a new surgery.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GP practices are the lifeblood of our local communities so the complete closure of any practice will always be a last resort when all other options have proved unworkable.
‘Unfortunately, too many practices are being forced to close because GPs and their teams can no longer cope with ever-growing patient demand without the necessary funding and workforce to deal with it. This has serious consequences for patient safety and the wellbeing of hard working family doctors and their practice teams.
‘NHS England’s GP Forward View could be a lifeline for our profession after years of declining investment and a workforce that has not risen in step with patient demand.’