I wonder if anyone was surprised by the recent news that a group of GP practices have been placed into special measures.
The move came after Care Quality Commission inspectors raised concerns about a lack of staff learning following safety incidents, failure by nurses to understand mental capacity legislation, and outdated training on vaccinations.
The situation plays into the perception still held by many of practice nursing as a dead-end job with few career opportunities, and one that is still not widely regarded as an option for newly qualified nurses.
Over many years I have frequently heard concerns voiced about the lack of training and development available to practice nurses, who often work in isolation. There are complaints that some GPs do not allow time or money for training and many have learnt their skills “on the job”. Some of these nurses will face real challenges as they move towards revalidation.
However, things are changing. Increased demand and a shortage of GPs has highlighted the vital role practice nurses can play in providing care.
There are fantastic examples of practice nurses working in autonomous roles, as advanced nurse practitioners and developing new models of service. They play an invaluable role in managing long-term conditions and providing continuity of care.
There is great work underway to dispel the myth that practice nurses need secondary care experience before moving into primary care. Back in March we published an article about a scheme that aimed to recruit newly qualified nurses into general practice. The Health Education Yorkshire and Humber scheme creates high-quality undergraduate placements in GP practices. In over six years it created 350 student placements and the number of students considering general practice rose from 31%-73%.
Practice nurses are going to play a vital role in managing and delivering patient care in the future and the roles and opportunities that are emerging in general practice provide exciting opportunities. However, GPs need to understand that nurses need education and development along with supportive professional leadership networks. Only then can their potential be realised.