Nurse training needs a “radical review” to meet the “urgent” need for clinicians with the skills to care for patients with long term conditions, the chief inspector of primary care has told Nursing Times.
Professor Steve Field, who took up his new post at the Care Quality Commission last Tuesday, said boosting the “competencies and quantities” of practice and community nurses was more urgent than training extra GPs.
The Royal College of GPs has claimed an impending shortage of doctors is a barrier to achieving the government’s aim of making general practice accessible to patients seven days a week.
Professor Field said that, while extra GPs were “undoubtedly” needed, more nurse-delivered care could help improve access and also continuity, with patients more likely to see the same health professional on different visits.
But he warned there was a lack of the appropriate skills within the current nursing workforce and that courses should include more primary care placements and have a greater focus on long term conditions.
“We need a radical review of nurse training so we have more nurses placed in primary care… very quickly. I think it’s urgent. We [need to] have enough nurses trained to support long term condition care now.”
He called on Health Education England, which is responsible for commissioning nurse education, to look at the nurse training programme.
“It strikes me there are insufficient numbers of well trained nurses to take on quickly the long term conditions load,” he told Nursing Times.
Professor Field added that in many parts of the country there was a need for practice nurses to work more closely with community nurses. “It’s completely bonkers that in many areas you’ve got practice nurses who are just about talking to the community nurses,” he said.
A spokesman for Health Education England said it would work with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and universities to ensure training was responding to the needs of “older patients with more complex needs”.
However, he suggested that a lack of continuing professional development was more of a problem than initial nurse education. He noted that much of the current workforce would be delivering the new services and there was a need for a “frank discussion” about the responsibility of employers to ensure staff were given “appropriate development opportunities”.
This view was echoed last month by Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute. She told the QNI’s annual conference that practice nurses were suffering from a “lack of investment in the development of their skills and that urgent attention is needed in the support of their professional development as specialist practitioners”.
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