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Half of GPNs report gaps in skills needed to undertake role

More than half of practice nurses feel they have gaps in their skills and knowledge required to perform in the role, a new survey has found.  

When asked if there were any gaps in competencies, skills and knowledge required to undertake the role, more than 50% of the primary care nursing staff at Wessex LMCs said that there were some gaps, with just 21% claiming that they felt they had no gaps at all.

Management of long-term conditions, mental health and women's health were among the most common areas mentioned by respondents to the survey.

The respondents – including practice nurses, nurse practitioners, advanced nurse practitioners, healthcare assistants, nursing associates and others – also cited changes to pay, terms and conditions as the best way to retain nurses in primary care, with two-thirds believing this to be important for retention.

Around 20% also believed that protected time to access training was necessary to help keep staff on.

The survey underlined the need for appropriate succession planning in the nursing workforce, as more than half of those surveyed were over 50 years of age and 32% (167) were planning to retire within the next five years.  

Helene Irvine, nurse adviser at Wessex LMCs and who compiled the survey, wrote in the report: ‘We may lose a high number of nurses across all titles within the next 5-10 years. We need to work with academic departments, HEE and other providers to recruit nurses and students into general practice and see this as a positive career option.’  

Although 80% of respondents felt either positive or very positive about their workplace, GPNs over 50 years of age were most likely to report negative or very negative feelings.  

Of the negative responses, the main complaints were time pressure, workload and related stress, not feeling valued, pay, lack of supervision and unreasonable demands from partners, managers and patients.   

Ms Irvine wrote: ‘It is important that we explore further why this group gave this score as we need to keep this group motivated to retain them in practice.’   

She also noted that 33 different titles were used by nursing staff on the Wessex LMCs database - a number and range of job descriptions that may cause ambiguity.  

The most common were advanced nurse practitioner, nurse practitioner, practice nurse and healthcare assistant, but also included strategic nurse lead, practice sister and proactive nurse. 

Ms Irvine said that Wessex LMCs may consider a guidance document on employers and employees, which would align qualifications, roles, titles, competencies and expectations of specific roles.   

The survey was sent to all areas across Wessex LMCs, including Hampshire, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset, Jersey and Guernsey, Dorset, Swindon and the Isle of Wight, and garnered a total of 522 respondents.