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Practice nurses under 'additional pressure'

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Practice nurses in Scotland are struggling to cope with an increase in demand for their services, nursing leaders have warned.

The number of face-to-face consultations with nurses based in Scottish GP surgeries rose again last year to 7.5 million, according to figures published by the Information Services Division.

The statistics show the number of consultations with practice nurses increased by 24% over the last six years.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the ongoing rise was putting practice nurses under pressure.

“These figures show that the number of face to face consultations is increasing whilst our members are telling us that the number of practice nurses employed is not,” said RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe.

“This discrepancy then places additional pressure on staff who are trying to meet an increased demand with limited resources.”

She said there was a need to develop nursing roles and leadership in primary care.

“There needs to be dedicated practice nurse leadership within every health board area and community nurse leaders must be formally enabled to engage and influence at board level within the health boards,” she added.

The figures show 30% of the total 24.2 million consultations in GP practices in 2009-10 were with nurses.

The most common reason for an appointment with a nurse was high blood pressure.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Lynnie

    I have been a practice nurse on and off for the past 20 years. Over this period of time the job has changed dramatically. We now do much of the chronic disease management that was formally done by GP’s, as well as seeing more patients who would have been referred to specialist services. As care has moved from secondary care into primary care we have taken on much of the burden of follow-up for patients too – removing sutures, dressings, advice and support for patients discharged early from hospital. Along with this we are constantly faced with the changing agenda of government policy which is quick to bring in new guidelines but spends little time evaluating whether the changes have actually worked. Our PCT did employ an experienced practice nurse who was the co-ordinator in the area but she was the first to be made redundant with this wave of changes. She was invaluable for support, training and co-ordination of services but above all she gave us a voice in the PCT which we no longer have. GP’s will be forming consortiums on the basis that they know where the care is needed and which services should be commissioned for patients – but we have a different perspective on care and should have some say in the way these services are organised. But – no point in ranting – nobody’s listening anyway !

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  • I was a practice nurse for 15 years. Over that time more and more chronic disease management and preventive medicine became the responsibility of the practice nurses. Whilst welcoming the additional training and responsibilities, I eventually became exhausted and 'burnt-out' because this was additional work with no more resources i.e. time or nurses. It was especially galling when some of this work generated additional income for the practice, but no more money could be found to support the nurses. There were also very few thanks! As the only full-time nurse on the staff I found the extra burdens very onerous. After several months off with work-related stress and depression I left to return to occupational health, where I did feel appreciated. I am so glad I no longer work for a GP practice, or in NHS, as I suspect that life is intolerable for some practice nurses now.

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