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Time to get some well-deserved recognition

Rhona Aikman went to the Scottish Practice Nurse Conference this week and learnt that morale among her fellow Scottish pratice nurses isn't great. Time to shout about some of the good work going on?

Another busy week for me as it was the annual Scottish Practice Nurse conference (SPNA). This year saw a change in venue for the SPNA from Stirling Royal Infirmary to Dunfermline Business Park, and a change of day, to a Saturday, following feedback last year; however, numbers remained much the same so perhaps we need to alternate between midweek and the weekend to suit everyone.

It turned out to be a very successful day and feedback has been very positive. All the speakers were excellent, with topics ranging from "Promoting positive sexual health: the nursing contribution" to "From the nose to the lung - why we need joined up thinking!"

As always a lot of networking takes place at these events and it was evident speaking to other practice nurses that morale is very low among practice nurses. Several reasons for this seem to keep cropping up.

Many practice nurses feel that their pay and conditions are falling behind while their workload continues to rise. General practice has in effect had a pay freeze last year and this year's proposal would result in a net increase of only 0.2% for the average practice. GPs are under no obligation to sign up for Agenda for Change and therefore very few practices have signed up. Some have picked bits of it, for example, holidays, but not the rest. This leaves many practice nurses trying to negotiate with GPs and practice managers on pay and conditions. This is not something we have been trained to do.  

Now many practice nurses will be asked to work evenings and possibly on Saturday mornings if their practice signs up for the extended hours.

A National Audit Office report published earlier this year found that in 2006 practice nurses in England were doing 34% of consultations, a huge increase from 21% in 1995. The figures in Scotland are likely to be similar.

We need to work together to improve the recognition of practice nurses and what they have achieved. There is a lot of really good work being done. Practice nurses have been very innovative and those of us that have been in post for a long time have seen our jobs grow and develop. My own job bears no resemblance to the post I took on in 1990.

In Scotland we do not yet have to worry about polyclinics and independent primary care providers. However, we seem to be closer to the demise of health visitors, and as a result of the uncertainty surrounding their future many areas are unable to fill vacant posts. This will impact on practice nurses especially in practices where the health visitor was the lead in childhood immunisations.

So let's shout about some of the good practice going on and raise the profile of practice nurses. The Nursing in Practice Awards are looking for nominations and the deadline is looming - 23 May. Think about your own work and your colleagues whose work has improved patient care and nominate them for one of the NiP Awards. There are ten top prizes of £500, a welcome reward for anyone.

The Nursing in Practice Awards
The Nursing in Practice Awards
2008 deadline is looming (23 May 2008). Entering is easy and you can nominate yourself or someone you know. Don't miss out on this chance to win £500. For more information go to