Nursing organisations have largely welcomed NHS England’s proposals on the future of primary care, with the Royal College of Nursing describing them as an “acknowledgment” of the importance of practice nurses.
Under the General Practice Forward View, published today, NHS England said it would earmark an extra £2.4bn a year from the NHS budget for general practice services by 2020-21.
“NHS England’s transformation plan for general practice is a step in the right direction”
As well as money for boosting GP numbers by around 5,000 over the next five years, the plan contains “specific, practical and funded steps” to strengthen the wider workforce, including a general practice nurse development strategy backed with a minimum £15m investment.
The plan comes on the heels of a Queen’s Nursing Institute report revealing the pressures facing practice nurses in London and on the same day that MPs highlighted the pressures being faced by primary care teams nationally.
- NHS England pledges to invest in practice nursing
- Workload burden ‘worse’ for London’s practice nurses
The health select committee’s report, to which the RCN gave evidence, warned that primary care was “under unprecedented strain and struggling to keep pace with relentlessly rising demand”.
“The new document is absolutely clear on the need to focus more resources on primary care”
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The future of the NHS depends upon being able to manage long term conditions and prevent unnecessary and expensive hospital admissions. Primary care nurses are crucial to delivering this care.
“In many areas, there are too few district nurses to treat people at home, too few practice nurses to manage people in surgeries, and too few other staff available in the community,” she said. “Increased numbers of primary care nurses are vital in reducing pressure on an overloaded system.
“NHS England’s transformation plan for general practice is a step in the right direction and a welcome acknowledgment of the importance of GPs and practice nurses,” she noted.
Ms Davies said it was “particularly encouraging” to see that funding was earmarked in the plan for more practice nurses, measures to improve their retention rates and to support return to work initiatives.
“Practice nurses are key to reducing the strain on the rest of the health service,” she said. “A safe and efficient NHS requires efficient and well-funded primary care and these commitments are a positive step towards correcting years of neglect towards these vital services.”
Royal College of Nursing appoints new leader
Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams said: “There is an urgent need for investment in practice nurses, with a significant number due to retire in the next few years. More district nurses are also needed.
““These services are crucial inpreventing unnecessary hospital admissions, which create even further strain on the NHS,” she said.
“Online support can only take patients so far, and many people tend to underplay their symptoms for fear of making a fuss,” she said. ”Nurses have the knowledge and expertise to ensure important information is not missed and conditions don’t go undetected.”
Dr Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the QNI, said the plan’s publication was “timely”, but suggested it should have highlighted more strongly the potential for practice nurses and advanced nurse practitioners to take on expanded roles in primary care.
“The new document is absolutely clear on the need to focus more resources on primary care, including investment in the practice nursing workforce,” she said.
”We welcome the new strategy that will increase the number of pre-registration nursing placements, improve staff retention and support return to nursing schemes,” said Dr Oldman. “We are also very glad to see an undertaking to implement the QNI/QNIS Voluntary Standards for Education and Practice in both District and General Practice Nursing.”
However, she added: “We would question whether there is enough emphasis on the contribution of general practice nurses, and the potential nurses have to assess, diagnose, treat, prescribe and refer patients, including those who need support with existing long term conditions. The document mentions advanced nurse practitioners, but is not specific on the vital contribution that they make.”