Practice nurses and advanced nurse practitioners dominate among the primary care nursing workforce, according to the first national breakdown of clinician type in surgeries in England.
Meanwhile, the number of practice nurses working has increased, show the latest official figures on the primary care workforce published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
“It is hoped that this information will shed light on current staffing numbers across all job roles in practices”
For the first time, the data collected for 2015 includes a breakdown of the different types of nurse working in general practice.
More than three quarters – nearly 77% – are practice nurses, while the second biggest group are advanced nurse practitioners at about 17%.
Just under 4% of nurses in general practice are specialist nurses, while just over 1% are extended role practice nurses, according to the HSCIC’s latest report.
The figures show nurses employed directly by GPs in England include some trainee nurses and just a handful of district nurses and nurse dispensers.
The HSCIC data also reveals that only a small number of nurses becoming full partners alongside GPs, with just 15 practice nurse partners across England.
The figures suggest few younger nurses going into primary care with just 7.2% under 35 and just 2.6% under the age of 30.
Nearly a third – 31% – are aged 55 and over with many nearing retirement age.
The data also shows the majority of nurses who work in GP surgeries are part-time, with the largest proportion working half to three quarters of a standard 37.5-hour week.
Among practice nurses, 37.8% work between 0.5 to 0.75 of a full-time working week with 23.9% working 0.75 to not quite full-time and 20.8% working a quarter to a half of a standard full-time week.
Previous studies have shown that many practice nurses have more than one job.
Kate Bedford, a statistician at the HSCIC, said: “The change in scope of the GP report will enable us to provide a valuable overall picture of the NHS primary care workforce, with more detail than before.
“With the additional data on all staff that provide services within GP practices at the time of the collection, it is hoped that this information will shed light on current staffing numbers across all job roles in practices, allowing for better workforce planning,” she said.
Overall, the figures show there were 15,398 whole-time equivalent nurses working in GP surgeries in 2015. That is a 2.2% increase on the previous year or in real-terms 336 extra nurses.
While numbers have gone up, the data shows practice nurse numbers remaining relatively static in the past few years, despite increasing pressures on services.
It comes against a backdrop of widespread GP shortages amid growing demand, and calls to make better use of other health professionals, including nurses, in primary care.
The figures show the number of GPs fell by 1.9% since 2014, with 657 fewer GPs working in England.
Last week NHS England published a five-year plan, the General Practice Forward View, that promised that more GPs and practice nurses would be trained.