General practice nurses in London are working longer hours and report greater workload burdens than counterparts in other areas, a new study has revealed today.
The report, published by the Queen’s Nursing Institute, paints a concerning picture of the strain on nurses in GP surgeries across the capital, with nearly two thirds reporting their nursing team did not have the right number of qualified staff to meet patients’ needs.
“Growing the workforce will be challenging without substantive placements”
It also raises concerns about the future of general practice nursing in London, with fewer surgeries offering practice placements to nursing students.
The report is based on the QNI’s national survey of more than 3,400 practice nurses carried out last year and published in January.
More than 11% – 382 practice nurses – said they worked in London. Analysis of the main survey findings shows a number of differences between London and the UK as a whole.
“The survey responses from general practice nurses working in London are reflective of the overall UK responses in several areas including workforce profile, satisfaction with salary, receipt of annual appraisals and support for professional development,” said the report – title General Practice Nursing: A Time Of Opportunity in the 21st Century.
“However, London respondents reported working more hours per week, more unpaid overtime and greater workload pressures,” it stated.
The survey found 27% of practice nurses in London have more than one job compared to 23% nationwide.
“London respondents reported working more hours per week, more unpaid overtime and greater workload pressures”
A greater proportion worked between 26 to 40 hours per week for their main job – nearly 32% compared to nearly 23% in the UK as a whole.
Meanwhile, more than half – 51% – of practice nurses in the capital work evening sessions, compared to around a third nationwide.
In general, practice nurses working in London said they worked a greater number of hours of unpaid overtime per week compared to respondents across the UK.
The report also highlighted concerns about staffing, with a higher proportion of general practice nurses in London – 64% – reporting their nursing team did not have the right number of appropriately qualified and training staff to meet the growing needs of patients. That compares to 55% across the UK.
When it came to effective communication with other services – such as discharge planning services, specialist nurse services, emergency services, and mental health services – experiences of nurses in London were very similar to elsewhere.
But there was a notable difference around liaison with district nurses, with a larger proportion of London nurses rating communication as “poor” or “very poor”.
The QNI has previously reported on the extremely low numbers of district nurses in London undertaking the specialist practice qualification in district nursing – although the situation is improving.
Workload burden worse for London’s practice nurses
One of the most worrying findings was a dearth of practice placements for nursing students, said report author and QNI chief executive Crystal Oldman.
While the proportion of surgeries welcoming medical students was broadly similar to the rest of the UK, less than a fifth – 19.2% - of nurses in London said their practice offered placements to pre-registration nursing students compared to 27% nationwide.
“Despite the slightly greater proportion of NMC-qualified mentors reported in London, less than a fifth of London respondents said their practice provided placements for pre-registration nursing students, even fewer than for the UK as a whole,” said Dr Oldman.
“This is of particular concern, especially given that more than a third of general practice nurses in London plan to retire by 2020,” she said. “Growing the workforce will be challenging without substantive placements, supported by qualified mentors and sign-off mentors in practice.”
The report called for an increase in the number placements for student nurses who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in primary care.
Other key recommendations include the need to look at the “current and potentially greater contribution of general practice nurses, including nurse practitioners in meeting the health needs of London’s population”, especially given declining GP numbers.
The report’s key findings were presented today by Dr Oldman at the Londonwide Local Medical Committees’ annual conference.