The number of practice nurses employed in England is continuing to slowly increase but around half of GP practices are still finding it difficult to recruit to posts, a new report had indicated.
There was a 2.8% increase in the number of full time equivalent practice nurses in the most recent year, based on NHS data, said the King’s Fund in its latest report on NHS performance, which was published today.
“Several practices were having to leave positions unfilled and either reducing appointments or asking existing staff to work harder”
King’s Fund report
This small boost – from 15,398 in 2015 to 15,827 in 2016 – followed a 2.2% increase between 2014 and 2015, and was in keeping with a succession of small annual increases since 2012, when there were 14,695 practice nurses.
But according to data from a sample of 202 GP surgeries in England – just under 3% of the total number in the country – the demand for general practice services has also been increasing.
Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, there was a 7.5% increase in total contacts. This comprised a 2.8% increase in face-to-face appointments, and a quarter more telephone contacts.
Over the same period, the average number of patients registered with each practice in the sample increased by 6.2%.
“A vicious circle of high workload leading to recruitment issues caused even higher workload for remaining staff”
King’s Fund report
Meanwhile, a snapshot survey of 68 GP partners and managers carried out by the think-tank revealed that 47% were having difficulties recruiting practice nurses.
In addition, around half said they were having problems recruiting doctors and most said they intended to deal with this by changing skill mix, including employing advanced nurse practitioners.
“Several practices said that they were having to leave positions unfilled and either reducing appointments or asking existing staff to work harder,” said the report.
“A common theme in the responses was that there was a vicious circle of high workload leading to recruitment issues which caused even higher workload for remaining staff. Only by addressing this did practices feel they would be able to recruit staff,” added the report.
Overall, the King’s Fund quarterly monitoring report on NHS finances revealed that half of health service areas were planning to cancel or delay spending because of cost pressures.
The think-tank’s report revealed that 50% of clinical commissioning group finance leads think that achieving this year’s forecast is likely to depend on delaying or cancelling spending.