Concerns have been raised that the introduction of a major new system of checks on nurses could drive practice nurses into early retirement due to a lack of support from employers.
The new revalidation requirements that nurses will need to meet to remain in practice – which comes into effect in April – could be seen by some as time-consuming and result in them “not bothering”, it has been claimed.
“We have to think of ways to make this facilitated so it just becomes easy. If we make it hard for our nurses they will just retire”
Dr Steve Mowle
In a major report published earlier this week by the Queen’s Nursing Institute, almost half of practice nurses reported that they did not always receive support from their employer for professional development.
At the same time, the report also found a third of the practice nursing workforce was planning to retire in the next five years.
Revalidation, brought in by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to replace the post-registration education and practice (PREP) system, will require nurses to compile a range of evidence every three years to demonstrate their practice is up to date.
This includes showing they have done 450 hours of practice, five pieces of practice-related feedback, five written reflective accounts, and at least 35 hours of continuing professional development.
At an event to the launch the QNI report, leaders from the nursing and medical profession urged general practice employers to support registrants or risk losing them.
“One of the issues around retaining people is we have to get a grasp on revalidation and help people through the process,” said Monica Fletcher, chief executive of the charity Education for Health.
“[Practice nurses being more likely to be targeted for audit] is a big imperative in terms of supporting people through the revalidation process”
“I’m actually concerned in thinking about revalidation that, if I’m a nurse quite close to retirement and all this stuff is happening around me, I may just not bother, she added.
Also speaking at the event, Dr Steve Mowle, chair of the London branch of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “We have to think of ways to make this facilitated, so it just becomes easy. If we make it hard for our nurses, they will just retire – just like some of our [medical] colleagues.”
Howard Catton, the Royal College of Nursing’s head of policy, who was attended the launch, added that general practice nurse portfolios were more likely to be selected for audit by the NMC.
The regulatory has stated it will target more isolated registrants for its audit, as their practice is considered more at risk of not being up to date.
“That is a big imperative in terms of supporting people through the revalidation process,” he said.
He added that the report showed a “woeful” 27% of general practices offered placements to undergraduate student nurses, suggesting potential difficulties in plugging the gap left by the departure of older registrants.
At the same time, he said, the government’s pledge to deliver 5,000 more GPs by 2020 would require an equivalent 15% increase – more than 2,000 – in practice nurse numbers.
“That, with your third due to retire, is about half the current [practice nurse] population you would need to replace in order to deal with those challenges,” Mr Catton warned.