A “frightening” crisis in practice nursing could be on the horizon in the East of England, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.
The warning was sparked by research showing the overwhelming majority of practice nurses in the region are aged over 40.
With an increased workload and growing demands for community based care, the RCN said primary care could struggle to provide care unless action was taken.
A survey of 90 practice nurses across Eastern England was carried out by the RCN during August and September.
It found 98% of respondents were aged over 40, of which 42% were aged 40-49, 48% were 50-59 and 8% were 60-69.
Karen Webb, RCN director for the Eastern region, said: “At the very heart of the health reforms and the NHS plans to save £20bn by 2015 is the shift of patient care from hospitals and into primary care.
“Our research shows, however, that will be very difficult to achieve when practice nurses are struggling with a growing workload and are getting closer to retirement age.
“The fact that only 2% of practice nurses are under the age of 40 is frightening,” she added. “Unless steps are taken to recruit new practice nurses and address this demographic issue, primary care will really struggle to provide care.”
RCN Eastern primary care adviser Kellie Norris said: “Clinical commissioners need to seriously consider the future of practice nursing as there is a real issue with both the age of the current workforce and also the level of training that practice nurses have.”
The survey also found three quarters of practice nurses worked part-time and the majority, 98%, were female. Only 24% of practice nurses were trained to degree level.
There were some distinct positive findings as well. Around two thirds of respondents said they were able to deliver the level of care they wished and a similar number said they had time to complete continuing professional development.