The rising age of practice nurses in England is creating a “major primary care supply challenge”, a report claims.
Almost one in five practice nurses are aged 55 or over.
Research by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions Primary Care: Today and Tomorrow claims the increasing numbers of salaried or part-time GPs means there has been a “growing reliance on practice nurses” - many of whom are also approaching retirement.
Furthermore, figures from the NHS Information Centre show new entrants and ‘returners to work’ have fallen.
Deloitte warns changes to employment regulations and agreements will render the recruitment of qualified practitioners from overseas “unviable”.
As many as 10,000 GPs have also expressed an intention to retire within five years, with 22% over the age of 55.
Deloitte estimates if the pattern of GP consultations remains unchanged, there could be a total of 433 million consultations annually by 2035.
Of this number, 180 million would be for people aged 65 and over - nearly double the current figure.
Karen Taylor, Deloitte UK Centre for Health Solutions’ Research Director, warns general practice must find new ways of working if it is to cope with the increasing demand.
“While important, the traditional ways of working, which rely on face to face consultations between the patient and the GP, and increasingly the practice nurse, are no longer sustainable,” she said.
“GPs need to adopt new models of care, using new technology and other practice staff more effectively, working closely with patients to provide more care in the community, with an emphasis on shared decision making and self management.
“GPs will still need to act as gatekeepers, but also increasingly as care navigators.”