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Third of general practice nurses set to retire by 2020

Only 35% feel their salary reflect their role within the practice, large survey reveals

Caroline White

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Only around one in three general practice nurses feel their pay matches their role and responsibilities, and a third are set to retire by 2020, reveals a new report on the GP nursing profession, published by The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI).

The report, which draws on an online survey completed by over 3,400 GP nurses (GPNs) during 2015, is the largest and most up to date survey of GPNs, and the first carried out by the community nursing charity.

Dr Crystal Oldman, QNI Chief Executive said the survey findings validated the role of the GPN and the support they provide “at every point during a person’s life, from infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood, to middle and older age. They are a vital part of the healthcare system in every part of the UK.”

But he said the responses also indicated some major challenges and opportunities which need to be addressed.

“The role of nurses in general practice is expanding rapidly, and many of today’s nurses are now undertaking roles traditionally the reserve of GPs. There is a huge opportunity for increased investment in the GP nurse workforce, to build the capacity of primary care, move more care to the community and closer to people’s own homes, and ease the pressures on A&E,” he suggested.

“The survey findings will be useful to policy makers and workforce planners as they explore new models of care and meet the challenges of an older population with multiple and complex healthcare needs,” he added.

But he warned: “The number of nurses planning to retire should be of major concern and we need to ensure that enough nurses are attracted to the profession so that patients can continue to receive high quality nursing care for themselves and their families when they attend the GP’s surgery.”

The responses showed that one in three (33.4%) of respondents are planning to retire by 2020. Men are under-represented in the workforce, comprising only 2%.

Worryingly, some four out of 10 respondents (43%) did not feel their nursing team had the right number of appropriately qualified and trained staff to meet the needs of patients.

Just under a third of respondents said they were independent prescribers, and over half (53%) said their employer always supported their professional development.

But only one in 10 held a specialist practice qualification in general practice nursing. Just over one in four (27%) of their employers offered placements for pre-registration nursing students, compared with 61.5% offering placements to medical students.

In terms of employment, almost one in four (23%) said they had two jobs in general practice, with around a third working evening sessions and around a fifth (18.5%) working at weekends.

Only around a third (35%) felt that their salary reflected their role within the practice. Salary and other terms and conditions, such as annual leave entitlement, varied widely, the findings showed.

The QNI has just launched a free online learning resource to support nurses who are new to general practice, and this year the charity will also work with QNI Scotland to produce new voluntary standards for GPN education and practice, which will enhance the existing Nursing and Midwifery Council specialist practice standards.

Commenting on the report, Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “Twenty-five per cent of patients seen in general practices are children. This report clearly raises the issue that only 1% of (GPNs) are registered as children’s nurses. Many practices do specifically train their adult registered nurses to undertake the immunisations and vaccinations for children under 5-years-old but the RCPCH is concerned that GPNs should have access to appropriate education and support to deliver evidence based care to all the children they see.”


* General Practice Nursing in the 21st Century: A Time of Opportunity. The Queen’s Nursing Institute, 2015.

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