On 8 April, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, spoke on Radio Four's 'World at One' programme about what the NHS would look like after 7 May, should the Conservatives be leading the country.
He emphasised that there will be more focus on prevention in primary care, supporting a healthier population, increasing self-management of long-term conditions, and reducing avoidable diseases.
However, it was not just the £22 billion of efficiency savings needed in the next parliament that stood out in the interview, but the following commitment. If the Conservatives are in government, Jeremy Hunt guaranteed that 5000 more GPs would be trained over the next five years. In response to this, Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary said that under a Labour government, there would be 8000 more GPs.
There was no explanation about whether these numbers were additional to the baseline number of GPs trained each year or whether this would be an uplift to a total of these targets. I am told by my GP colleagues that it takes a minimum of 11 years to train a GP from medical student to registration, so any intended increase in the numbers of GPs employed in England will require an immediate increase in the number of medical students.
This creates an opportunity for nurses to demonstrate their ability to provide excellent care for general practice populations. Practice nurses and advanced nurse practitioners can offer so much to patients, families and carers in primary care, and be prepared for these roles in half the time it takes to train a GP.
It is a huge disappointment that there has been no specific target for increasing practice nurses from any political party, alongside the increase in GP numbers. However, I am optimistic that this situation presents an opportunity for nurses working in general practice to demonstrate the contribution they make daily and the potential to expand their numbers alongside those of GPs.
The QNI is raising this issue in many national forums and will continue to influence thinking about the contribution of practice nurses. In May, it will release its national survey of nurses working in general practice, which will provide a robust evidence base on which to lobby the next government, regardless of which party is given the job.