Nurses working in general practice should have a similar pay structure to community and acute nurses under Agenda for Change, according to a report by the parliamentary Health Select Committee.
The Health Select Committee’s report into primary care identifies issues with recruiting and retaining nurses in general practice. According to the RCN’s evidence submitted as part of the report, the lack of an agreed pay scale like Agenda for Change for nurses working in general practice has led to a gap in terms and conditions between nurses working in general practice and those working in the wider NHS.
‘The problem is consistency,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN. ‘There are some surgeries that are fantastic employers—there is lots of opportunity for continuing education and nurses are encouraged to develop their skills—and then there are others where the terms and conditions are poor, they do not get paid very well and they do not have those opportunities.’
The report states that reform to pay mechanisms could be a significant aid to keeping nurses in primary care, preventing a drain into the acute sector and ensuring there is a sufficient workforce to support new teams.
‘We recognise that nurses in primary care face uncertain and varied career development and locally agreed terms and conditions all determined by their employer,’ the Health Select Committee stated in the report. ‘This acts as a deterrent to those who may wish to pursue a career in primary care.’
The Health Select Committee recommended the creation of a workforce development plan for primary care nurses, to be devised by the RCN, HEE and NHS England. According to the Committee, this should include plans for reforms to undergraduate training, incentivise nurses to enter primary care, and establish recommended pay and conditions similar to Agenda for Change.
‘The nursing shortage in England must be addressed as increased numbers of primary care nurses are vital in reducing pressure on an overloaded system,’ added Ms Davies. 'Practice nurses are key to reducing the strain on the rest of the health service and the RCN looks forward to working with HEE, NHS England and others to ensure that a sufficient workforce is being trained and retained.'
Ms Davies also stated it was key that all pre-registration nurses should be exposed to general practice during their training, and this would be 'a central element to attracting nurses to the profession'. The Committee calls on the NMC to 'urgently review nurse training curriculums with a view to increasing the exposure to primary care for healthcare professionals in training'.
The report covered many of the issues in general practice such as recruitment and retention, seven-day services and increasing the use of technology in primary care.