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‘Image of Nursing’ programme to encourage nurses into general practice

NHS England has announced it will launch an ‘Image of Nursing’ programme to increase uptake of nurses into general practice, and promote the career as an option for undergraduates.

The number of pre-registration placements in general practice for undergraduates will be increased to allow undergraduate nurses an opportunity to experience working in primary care, with Health Education England working with universities and institutions offering nursing degrees to encourage students to take up these placements.

There will also be new routes into general practice, including pathways for nursing associates and health support workers, and return to practice schemes to encourage nurses to come back to general practice.

These feature as part of NHS England’s 10-point action plan, published today, to help deliver the general practice nursing workforce set out in the GP Forward View.

Around £15m will be invested to help prioritise and target where improvements are needed the most, with milestones allowing progress to be measured across general practice nursing.

Four regional GPN Delivery Boards will be set up, and will be accountable for developing a local plan to ensure delivery of the 10 measures.

Professor Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, recognised that practice nurses haven’t always received the recognition they deserved, but added that they are ‘central to our plan to improve care for patients’.

She added: ‘I am determined to ensure that there is a proper career development programme for those who choose this vital path and make it an attractive first choice for newly-qualified nurses, as well as helping experienced staff take advantage of the flexibility it offers to re-enter the workforce.’

The plan has been backed by Dr Arvind Madan, GP and NHS England director of primary care, and Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, who claimed that the college had been ‘calling for elements of this plan for many years’.

She said: ‘The College has been calling for elements of this plan to be introduced for many years, so we’re really pleased to see wheels being put into motion. We now need all aspects of this plan to be implemented in full and as swiftly as possible – and we will play our part in ensuring it is a success.

‘We look forward to welcoming, and welcoming back, as many practice nurses to the profession as possible.’

The 10-point plan in full:

1. Raising the profile of nursing in general practice – the ‘Image of Nursing’ programme will form the basis of this work, recognising the important contribution of the GPN workforce as well as promoting it as a highly valued career option.

2. Supporting leadership opportunities – Equipping GPNs with the skills and competencies to take on leadership positions through greater access to leadership programmes, mentors and training hubs.

3. Increasing the number of pre-registration placements in general practice – increasing the number of placements available in general practice to give undergraduate nurses a chance to experience what it is like to work in primary care. HEE will work closely with HEIs, encouraging trainees to take up placements in general practice.

4. Establishing inductions and preceptorships – going forward all nurses new to general practice will have access to an induction programme and a professional development plan.

5. Improving access to ‘return to practice’ programmes – by sharing best practice from existing return to work programmes. The national return to practice programme will also include GPNs.

6. Delivering on prevention – nursing will play a crucial role within primary care, including mandatory health checks, supporting and educating the public about their general health, helping people lead healthier lifestyles to try and avoid ill health.

7. Access to educational programmes geared towards delivery of care needed in the future – Programmes will be targeted towards skills needed to enhance practice, achieving better outcomes, experience and use of resources. For example, working with practice population health profiles and enhancing care through digitalisation including promoting healthy ageing and physical activity.

8. Expanding career opportunities and progression for GPNs – by increasing access to clinical academic careers and advanced clinical practice programmes allowing new entrants to work in a number of roles, with the option of progressing to more senior roles such as Advanced Nurse Practitioner and clinical roles, which in the past may not have been an option.

9. Offering additional routes into general practice – developing new career pathways into primary care nursing including nursing associates and health support workers. The regional boards will use emerging best practice from schemes such as the primary care nursing associate pilot in Gloucester.

10. Improving retention – Working with NHSI, the four regional GPN boards will support the introduction of successful initiatives relating to the retention of GPNs to enable all practices to share and adopt best practice.