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Practice nurse recruitment difficulties in half of surgeries


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.


Readers' comments (6)

  • Coming from a GP surgery, the difficulties in our practice centre around terms and conditions. The annual leave is less as is the salary as we are not employed under an A4C contract. Few nurses are willing to leave the NHS to work for less. The GPs want a nurse who is able to hit the ground running, but experience comes with a price tag that they are simply not willing to pay.

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  • I never see posts offering diploma financing at University alongside contracted hours. Any nurses interested in training to be a GP nurse would need to fund their own training before applying for a job.

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  • As a retired nurse with pre operative assessment and acute surgical experience, assessment skills for diabetes and asthma. Wound assessor . Need to brush up on vascular dressing technique , be trained in colposcopy technique and vaccinations. seems my existing skills are ignored despite my eagerness to learn new skills. Can't progress new skills without being in s job where I can practice them. One of the few who would return in this role

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  • I agree with all the comments above, but will add that the advertising for jobs is too restrictive eg nurse with A&E experience. I know many A&E nurses and to be honest they are not interested in primary care at all. A&E nurses like action you may find 1 in 50 A&E nurses wanting to move to primary care. Change the advert to nurse with 18 months experience in A&E, surgical, medical and paediatric experience you might find that the application pool would be different. There is also that lack of on the job training lets face it nursing in a huge crisis the more you offer someone the more they are likely to want to make that change.

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  • I agree too. All the job adverts I've seen are asking for 'experienced' practice nurses; but there never seems to be anything offering training. I think a lot more experienced nurses would be applying if there were opportunities for a training post in this specialised role.

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  • It seems to be the same problem across many areas. Only willing to recruit nurses who have already done the job. To get a job you need to have certain qualifications but to get on the courses you need to already have a job in that area. I feel a lot of GP practices are greedy and unwilling to spend money, so they can have more profit.

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