This is the sixth of 10 points of priorities for general practice nursing for this year, launched to form a manifesto for the profession. Look out for each of the points as they are published one by one, each supported by a nurse working in or closely related to general practice.
Workforce shortages, soaring patient demand, and pay and conditions that fall far short of those on offer to nurses working in secondary care are just some of the ongoing issues faced by general practice nurses (GPNs). Nurses share the actions they believe could be taken by practices, PCNs, the wider NHS, the government – and GPNs themselves.
We know that this is only the start of the conversation about challenges in general practice – please join in and share your views if you can. We will also return to these important topics often during 2024.
Here is the sixth of the manifesto points:
#6 Support wellbeing
This manifesto point was championed by Dr Helen Anderson
‘GPN employers, PCNs and nursing bodies need to support nurses with their health and care, so they can care for others.’
Dr Helen Anderson RN, research fellow at the University of York, and previously a GPN and ANP, recently led a study on the experiences of nurses working in general practice during the Covid-19 pandemic. The work has a particular focus on nurses’ health and wellbeing – an area she feels strongly about.
Analysis of the study’s findings was based on a report in 2020 by The King’s Fund, whose premise was that for nurses’ wellbeing needs to be met, they need to experience autonomy and a sense of belonging, and to feel they are making a valuable contribution – ‘all needs that were challenged by the pandemic’, says Dr Anderson. Many of the nurses she spoke to said that even before the pandemic they felt ‘invisible’.
Workload ‘significantly increased over the pandemic, and seems not to have subsided’, she says. ‘Even those working 30 years or more in general practice are saying they’ve never seen the level and complexity of this workload before.
‘As a consequence, nurses are suffering from anxiety, stress, and burnout, and some are leaving the profession.’
Dr Anderson wants GPNs included in higher-level decision making. Employers and practice managers need to remunerate them appropriately, she says, and general practice colleagues and the public need to be more aware of the highly skilled work they do.
‘Their role is often overlooked, which is not good for anyone’s wellbeing or, ultimately, for the future of general practice nursing.’
‘We need to strategically consider how GPNs are to be supported,’ she says. ‘We’ve reached crisis point. If we lose more GPNs this is going to have a significantly negative impact on general practice. And these nurses will be sorely missed.’
Dr Helen Anderson
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The 10 points of the manifesto
Look out for discussion on the points at nursinginpractice.com and on social media as these points are launched one by one over the next few weeks
The government should ensure general practice nurses have the same pay, terms and conditions as their secondary care colleagues.
The NHS, practices, universities and other stakeholders need to change the narrative, to encourage more nurses to choose general practice.
Practices, PCNs, the NHS and government should do more to promote the health of our less well-off families.
Practices and PCNs need to free up time for GPNs to empower patients to manage their long-term conditions, including diabetes, asthma and COPD.
NHS England, PCNs, and GP practices should ensure GPNs have the time and resources to carry out their crucial role in public health promotion and disease prevention.
GPN employers, PCNs and nursing bodies need to support nurses with their health and care, so they can care for others.
All nurses should be given the time for professional development to progress their careers. NHS England, PCNs and practices should encourage and support the GPN and ANP roles to grow in general practice.
It is important for general practice nurses to consider parity of esteem – valuing the patients’ mental health needs equally to their physical health.
GPNs need to play an important role in overturning the decline in childhood immunisation uptake.
General practice needs to continue to evolve to serve patients better, adopting approved digital platforms and applications to improve patient care and outcomes.
Writer: Kathy Oxtoby