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NHS pilots 'inspirational' fast-track route into GP nursing

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A first-of-its-kind training programme that will prepare registered nurses including those who are newly qualified for a career in primary care in just nine months is being trialled by the NHS.

The work-based education package is due to be piloted in three sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) areas in the Midlands and East region of England.

“We needed to have a radical rethink of how we recruit, train and retain our primary care nursing workforce”

Tina Swain

The first STP area to implement the programme will be Northamptonshire with the course due to commence at the end of January. There are 10 places available.

Successful candidates will be given a paid role at a practice in the county run by Lakeside Healthcare and the 3Sixty Care Partnership where they will develop practical clinical skills and competencies, while working under supervision.

Nurses will receive a support package including coaching and mentoring from experienced practice staff.

They will also spend one day a week at De Montfort University in Leicester for face-to-face sessions.

Students will finish the course with a qualification covering the core skills needed for practice nursing including cytology, diabetes management, asthma and leadership, as well as hands-on experience in a surgery.

They will then be offered an interview at a practice within the Northamptonshire STP area that has nurse vacancies.

“There is an urgent need to increase the recruitment of nurses into GP practices”

Miriam Coffie

The scheme is considered ideal for newly qualifed nurses, nurses returning to practice after a career break or registered nurses from another field wanting to move into primary care. 

One of the aims is to create a new pipeline of nurses to replace the large numbers of existing staff preparing for retirement. 

The programme is being funded in partnership between NHS England, Health Education England and Nene and Corby Clinical Commissioning Groups NHS on behalf on the Northamptonshire STP.

Tina Swain, head of nursing and safeguarding at the CCGs, said: “We needed to have a radical rethink of how we recruit, train and retain our primary care nursing workforce.

“This programme offers the county the opportunity to do things differently, to innovate and trail-blaze primary care nurse training for the future,” she added.

Plans are currently being put together to trial a similar programme in Lincolnshire, where a further 10 places are on offer.

The third location is still being finalised.

Miriam Coffie, head of quality for the Midlands and East region at NHS England, said the project could be repeated on an annual basis in partnership with STPs and places being commissioned in line with vacancies.

She added: “With a number of GP nurses approaching retirement, there is an urgent need to increase the recruitment of nurses into GP practices by targeting both newly qualified nurses and those who want to move into practice nursing.”

The scheme will be evaluated and considered for further expansion.

“The additional workforce will, in turn, result in a reduction in the number of vacancies”

Barbara Mclean

Some of the money for the pilot has come from the limited pot made available as part of England chief nursing officer Jane Cumming’s 10-point action plan to develop general practice nursing.

Leaders say the challenge in scaling up the programme will be in securing sustainable funding.

Explaining why the programme is unique, Barbara Mclean, clinical lead for the NHS England regional nursing team, said: “The most significant difference is offering the opportunity as part of a paid employment package, working across an STP area to develop the skills of new nurses, not already employed by practices in the area. 

Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group

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Barbara McLean

“An inspirational model of increasing the number of nurses working in general practice and not just developing existing nurses, putting pressure in the system from their attendance at this important training, at a time of increased pressure from activity,” she said. 

“The additional workforce will, in turn, result in a reduction in the number of vacancies, which also all enables existing employed nurses to take part in essential development and education, as a by-product of the programme,” Ms Mclean added. 

Nurses can apply for the Northamptonshire scheme until 9 December via:

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I went straight into practice nursing from newly qualified. I’m 40 with kids of my own and years of various work experience and qualifications behind me.

    And yet I was told by peers it wasn’t suitable for a newly qualified nurse to be a PN, in fact I was repeatedly told this, by most experienced nurses I met or worked with.

    After about a year they reluctantly accepted me. I passed my training and loved my job.
    I am a resilient and mature person, but they still made me doubt myself.

    My point? Exsisting culture among nurses has to change. There are not enough nurses in Primary Care, therefore we need to be much more inclusive and support our newly qualifieds. The right newly qualified nurses can make excellent PNs. It won’t be for every newly qualified, admittedly.

    But we should not tell them they are not suitable for a PN job because they have not “worked for 20 (I exaggerate!) years on a ward”. This view is unhelpful a little bit redundant in the current climate too.

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