This is the third 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 third of the manifesto points:
#3 Tackle inequalities
This manifesto point was championed by Rebecca Shearer
‘Practices, PCNs, the NHS, and government, should do more to promote the health of our less well-off families.’
Rebecca Shearer, lead nurse and ANP at West Road Medical Centre in Newcastle, and a Queen’s Nurse, has been providing a ‘one-stop health shop’ from a local foodbank-turned welfare hub, as part of her ongoing drive to tackle health inequalities.
‘People can drop in to discuss any aspect of health, including family health,’ says Ms Shearer. ‘A lot of my work is around respiratory conditions and going back to basics with patient education, such as using inhalers properly and smoking cessation advice.’
Without the time limits of general practice consultations, Ms Shearer can ‘deliver key health messages in a more relaxed environment’. She feels the scheme has been ‘really making a difference’.
The work is part of a project she is leading on health inequalities, funded by the Queen’s Nursing Institute.
Using that funding, she set up an initiative to help patients with long-term conditions better understand their annual results letter. Many do not have English as a first language, so she made the letter more accessible, cutting back on written text and adding images.
Ms Shearer underlines the importance of tackling inequalities: ‘If people don’t understand their conditions this can result in A&E presentations, and outcomes won’t improve if we don’t address social issues,’ she says.
And all practices can do more to address inequalities. ‘For example, by investing time in patients the first time you meet them, you could save on frequent contacts over the coming months. And through patient education you can improve health outcomes,’ she adds.
It’s important for GPNs to share with others the work they are doing in this area. ‘I’ve learned that innovation projects can provide an opportunity for collaborative working,’ she says. ‘So, shout about what you are doing. There will be others with similar interests, so join forces and tackle health inequalities together.’
Do you have any points for discussion on this topic? Please visit Nursing in Practice on Facebook or X to start the discussion. Please do also get in touch with us at Nursing in Practice if you have relevant projects or ideas for articles to share on this subject. We welcome your thoughts.
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