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Praise for Tower Hamlets practice nurse training programme

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A training programme pioneered in east London provides a model for “efficiently and speedily training practice nurses”, according to researchers.

The Open Doors programme, introduced by NHS Tower Hamlets in 2008, mentors trainees in GP surgeries at the same time as they are studying the theory behind being a practice nurse.

Nurses are trained to manage long term conditions as well as giving immunisations and cervical cytology screening.

The programme was developed in response to local concerns about a lack of systematic training and development for staff new to primary care.

Under the scheme, classroom training is complemented by work-based learning supported by clinical mentors at local practices. Nurses spend 30 hours a week in practice including around 7.5 hours per week of protected learning time in addition to university study days.

An independent evaluation of scheme, carried out by London South Bank University and published in the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, judged it to be an “effective learning programme” that “maybe transferable to efficiently training practice nurses in other locations”.

“If replicated it may provide a positive future model for acquiring and retaining general practice nurses who speedily become competent in the appropriate knowledge, skills and aptitude required,” the study authors said.

The two-year programme leads to a BSc (Hons) Primary Care (Practice Nursing) degree. Those who have completed the programme have a 96% success rate of gaining employment in a GP surgery.

Since it started in May 2008, 30 people have completed the programme, of which 24 are working in across east London and five have taken on practice nurse roles in other areas. 

The team behind the programme is now looking at ways to expand it. Vicky Souster, manager of the Open Doors programme said:  “Nurses who work in GP practices are vital. They do so much to improve and maintain the quality of life for local people.”

She said that previously nurses who wanted to work in a GP practice found they had to have experience as a practice nurse to be employed as a practice nurse.

“We started this scheme to ensure that nurses could make the leap to practice nursing while being supported both academically and practically,” she said. 

The new Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group said it was pleased to support the “ground-breaking” programme. 

CCG chair Dr Sam Everington said:  “Practice nursing roles in inner city areas have traditionally been hard posts to recruit to.

“Open Doors has taken those problems and worked through them to the satisfaction of all involved. The programme has also helped to further demonstrate the extent of the contribution nursing plays in primary care.”

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